The Island’s Deer in the Modern Era – 1

 

Populations of wild deer on the Isle of Wight have fluctuated since their re-appearance there after the end of the last ice age, with an apparent decline at the end of the 18th century leading to their probable disappearance around the middle of the 19th century.

Wild deer began to re-establish  during the second half of the 20th century, with both Roe and Muntjac being recorded in the 1970s. The former almost certainly swam from the mainland, Roe along with other deer species are occasionally seen swimming in the Solent and Southampton Water, and are not kept in captivity on the island. The Muntjac may have escaped from a tourist attraction which kept that particular species at that time, although others may have subsequently swum across too. By the 1990s there was a small herd of Fallow that were observed in Firestone Copse and on Lynnbottom Tip, whilst further to the west near to Calbourne  Red deer were to be found.

Red deer were farmed at various locations on the island during the last few years of the 20th century whilst Red deer, Fallow deer and Muntjac deer were kept at some tourist attractions but all of these establishments had closed by around 2000.  Captive populations of both Red and Fallow deer are still to be found in deer parks on the island today.

During the 21st century the presence of Red, Fallow, Roe and Muntjac have been recorded in the wild, with a new species, Sika, being noted in 2017.  Again Sika  deer do not appear to have been kept in captivity on the island but there are strong populations of this species resident in the woodlands around the  Beaulieu river, just a few miles away across the Solent. Sika deer are renowned for their swimming abilities which enabled them to colonise the Arne Peninsular in Dorset after their release on Brownsea Island in Poole harbour.

Muntjac deer appear to be the most widespread species,  despite their concerns to the contrary the public authorities have acknowledged that none of these deer are actually causing any environmental problems and although not numerous, wild deer continue to enrich the island’s woodland biodiversity.

If you have seen any deer please take part in the Isle of Wight Deer Survey  locations will be treated with strictest confidence.

British Deer Society Position Statement – Isle of Wight Deer

For periodic updates please visit Isle of Wight Deer Conservation or email  deerwight@gmail.com

Thank you for your interest and support

 

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Wild deer are an asset!

Wild deer are an asset! (1)

When properly managed there are many positive aspects to the presence of wild deer, these may include public enjoyment, wildlife tourism, stalking and the supply of true wild venison, a healthy and environmentally friendly meat. All this in addition to the environmental benefit that low density deer grazing brings to woodland biodiversity.

What sort of value can wild deer bring to rural economies?
All too often deer are merely thought of in terms of what a land owner might sell stalking rights for, around £ 2.00 – £ 3.00 per acre, sometimes much more – £ 28.00 an acre in the south of England. Or what a carcase might fetch at the game dealers, currently (2014) £ 2.25 – £ 3.00 per kg. However their economic worth extends well beyond this.
A study from Scotland where there are around 800,000 deer claims that they annually generate around £ 105 million in relation to deer stalking and contribute towards £ 138 million of wildlife tourism. This compares very favourably to the £ 10 thousand cost of deer damage to agriculture there.
But it is not just Scotland that benefits in this way. Research from the west of England also took into account both the positive and negative impacts of deer.

So what are these negative impacts?
Agriculture
A five year study by Defra “Quantifying the damage wild deer cause to agricultural crops and pastures” revealed that many farmers believed that the “damage caused by deer causes significant economic loss”. This research reveals however that “Scientific studies to quantify the actual (rather than perceived) levels of damage, have been either inconclusive or shown that the damage in relatively insignificant.” Exclosure cages were set up in growing crops which variously prevented access by deer and lagomorphs (Hares & Rabbits) and soil fertility was assessed.
Their conclusion was that “The results from the exclosure trial studies showed only one highly statistically significant reduction in yield which was due to lagomorphs only (and not deer).These studies clearly demonstrated that any impact of the foraging behaviour of wild deer on agricultural crops is insignificant in comparison with the variation in yield due to soil fertility levels. “
A study from the East of England where deer are at damagingly high densities claims that “The agricultural damage can be highly localised, even within single farms, particularly when it involves high value crops”
In common with domestic livestock wild deer may be afflicted by ailments but Defra have stated that “The evidence available so far suggests that deer are unlikely to be a significant source of spread for the main livestock diseases, although the monitoring in deer has been low”.

Deer Vehicle Collisions (DVC’s)
Many mainland areas have problems with DVC’s but these are most prevalent where there are not just high density deer populations but also high volumes of traffic and a high concentration of roads, a good local example of such an area is the M3 – M27 interchange outside Southampton.
Fortunately on the Isle of Wight we do not have the requisite high numbers of deer, high traffic volumes and trunk roads or motorways so here at least DVC’s are comparatively insignificant.

So after taking these negative economic impacts into account can it still be financially beneficial to have deer present?
Even after taking into account these negative impacts the Exmoor study put an overall net value on wild deer to the local community at £ 3.2 million per annum, equivalent to £ 1089 per deer with stags being the most valuable at £ 3750 per head.

Are there some examples of how this might benefit the Isle of Wight?
Tourism is one of the most significant sectors of the island’s economy, according to the Isle of Wight Council generating in the region of £ 500 million gross income, by way of contrast Natural England state that “Woodland on the Island is generally under-managed and timber production is a marginal activity as the value of the timber is low and transport to the mainland is expensive.”

It would appear that deer related tourism would be a way of adding value to these woodlands, as well as the doubtless benefit that the light grazing of a low density deer population can bring.

Some tourist attractions such as the Isle of Wight Steam Railway have already appreciated that deer are of interest to visitors urging them to “Settle back in beautifully restored Victorian and Edwardian carriages and discover an idyllic view of the Island’s unspoilt countryside. Keep an eye out for a red squirrel or deer darting away from the train as you pass through ancient woodland, and watch for a solitary kestrel perched on a fence post seeking its prey as the train ambles through open farmland and sweeping downland!”

So what steps need to be taken so that the Isle of Wight can enjoy the rewarding presence of deer?
It cannot be taken for granted that deer will be profitable for our island community, this requires a positive attitude by landowners and managers combined with the appropriate skills.
A properly conceived “Best Practice” based management plan and a deer management group have a valuable role to play in this, not only by helping to keep deer at the modest densities known to be beneficial but also by assisting to minimise any adverse localised impacts such as those on agriculture and to sensitive environments.
The economic benefits of wild deer have not been widely researched, however the available evidence suggests that competently managed deer can have a very substantial positive impact on tourist based economies such as ours.

If you have seen some deer on the island please take part in the Isle of Wight Deer Survey  locations will be treated with strictest confidence. For periodic updates please visit Isle of Wight Deer Conservation or email  deerwight@gmail.com

British Deer Society Position Statement – Isle of Wight Deer

Thank you for your interest and support

For more photos of deer on the Isle of Wight please see the Isle of Wight Deer Album

 

Red Hind 15.3.14 Isle of Wight (2)

Red Deer Hind, Isle of Wight

For more photos of deer on the Isle of Wight please visit my Isle of Wight Deer Album