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. 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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Swimming Deer

Swimming Deer

One of the lesser known facts about deer is that as well as being very athletic creatures on land they are also strong and able swimmers that will readily take to the water. They are known to naturally disperse and migrate across lakes, strong flowing rivers and arms of the sea.

Deer have hollow body hairs which assist buoyancy and have strong hind legs which enable them to swim long distances, up to 10 miles have been claimed from the United States.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Whitetail deer, a close relative of our native Roe, can swim at 13 mph, this compares favourably with the Lymington to Yarmouth ferry which struggles to top 9 mph on its 5 mile crossing.

Around the coast of the UK Red, Roe, Sika and Muntjac are often seen swimming, whilst paradoxically the marsh dwelling Chinese Water Deer appears to be the species least likely to be seen in the sea.

The Solent is no exception to this and island status poses no barrier to deer migrating from the mainland to the Isle of Wight. Even as long ago as the 17th century Sir John Oglander recounts the tale of a distinctive red deer stag that swum across to the island whilst being hunted and took up residence on his Rowborough estate. He tells of how this deer used to disappear during the rut only to reappear afterwards and his belief was that it returned to the mainland during this time, this is entirely within what we now know to be the habits of rutting red deer stags.

More recently in both the 20th and current century Roe and Muntjac have been photographed swimming in the Solent and their presence has been described by members of the public and conservation groups such as the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust.

Isle of Wight Deer Conservation are currently conducting a survey of the island’s deer population, including those seen swimming around the Solent and coastal areas.

If you have seen any deer 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

Thank you for your interest and support

Picture by Jonathan Kershaw

Roe Buck picture by Jonathan Kershaw

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