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Changes to regulation of deer management being considered

An end to close seasons for stags and bucks, the use of night vision scopes to cull deer and compulsory testing for deer managers are all under consideration in a major overhaul of how England’s booming deer herd is managed.

The proposals have come in a consultation issued by DEFRA and the forestry commission. Explaining the need to update the regulation of Deer management in England, Ian Tubby, Head of Policy and Advice at the Forestry Commission said: “In England, due to several factors including land use changes and a lack of natural predators, deer density and distribution have dramatically increased over the last century, and at such levels pose a significant risk to our woodlands, other animals that rely on this environment and deer themselves.”

The consultation makes 21 proposals, some of these, such as support to develop the wild venison market, are likely to be widely supported by both professional and amateur deer stalkers. However others are likely to prove controversial. Among these is a proposal to keep close seasons for female deer only. So-called ‘out of season’ licenses for male deer have been widely issued in Scotland in recent years. However, critics claim the licenses reduce deer to ‘vermin status’.

The consultation also asks for views on relaxing the laws around night shooting of deer, saying: “The availability of high-quality affordable night vision technology has increased the effectiveness and safety of night shooting which is now commonplace for species other than deer.”

The use of thermal imaging scopes has radically changed fox control. However, it is viewed as unsporting by many recreational deer stalkers. BASC’s Martin Edwards said the association would engage with the consultation, but that there were elements it could and did not support, among those was the idea of mandatory testing of anyone shooting deer. Martin said: “There are many proposals put forward that are necessary and achievable; for the others the devil is in the detail.”

“BASC does not support mandatory testing, as this will limit the ability to control deer and there is no evidence that it is required.”