Proposal to cull deer population is opposed

An animal sanctuary representative has reacted angrily to suggestions that a government-backed organisation would like to see deer in Northamptonshire culled to protect farmland.

The population of deer in the county, which are mostly the diminutive muntjac or fallow varieties, is on the rise, mainly because of mild winters and a lack of natural predators.

The Deer Initiative, which advises landowners on how to manage the animals, has said numbers need to be controlled by shooting them humanely to stop them wrecking woodland and crops and causing road accidents.

It is also trying to increase the marketing of venison, to encourage more landowners to cull more deer.

Jane Shepherd, of the Algernon Trust Animal Sanctuary, in Whittlebury, said: "I don't think they need to do this at all. They're always having a go at poor old muntjac.

"Culling is not the only way because they have methods of population control in Holland where they lay down contraceptives in their food.

"I don't know what's the matter with Brits. Our attitude seems to be that if it moves then kill it. I don't know why we can't just live in peace with deer."

Mrs Shepherd added that the number of road accidents involving deer could be reduced if more people attached a device to their car which creates a warning sound using fast-moving air.

The Woodland Trust, which manages Salcey Forest in Northamptonshire and contributes to the Deer Initiative, emphasised that deer would only be shot if all other methods, such as protective fencing, have failed.

Alistair Nash, a trust representative, said: "We recognise that deer are an important part of our natural heritage but they can also have a range of negative impacts on the environment.

"In managing deer across our Northamptonshire sites the trust aims to strike a balance between deer numbers and the wider needs of the woodland environment.

"We cull as a last resort, having considered all other alternatives, with humane culling of numbers to a level where deer damage levels are acceptable in the context of the site objectives, taking into account the needs of our neighbours and the needs to maintain a viable deer population."