A new Government survey has described the destructive capabilities of Britain?s ever increasing deer population, and called for landowners to work together to combat the problem.

The results of the survey, which examined browse damage and impact on ground flora, were made public in a presentation given by Natural England?s Dr Emma Goldberg at last week?s annual meeting of the British Ecological Society.

Speaking at the meeting, Dr Goldberg said: ?Deer numbers have certainly been rising for the past 40 years, and we believe that they are higher now than they have ever been.?

?The ecological knock-on affect has a direct impact on plants such as hazel, privet and rarer shrubs which may get browsed out of the woodland altogether.?

?This has yet another knock-on impact for other species, such as dormice or ground-nesting birds. Even butterflies can be affected because the shrub layer provides a nectar source.?

The survey found a number of regional variations: in the east of England and the East Midlands, Dr Goldberg said that the impact of deer had got more severe in the past five years, while the situation had improved in the west Midlands and south-east.

She said: ?It?s a bit of a mixed story. That is why it is important to get an agreement among all landowners on the sort of management techniques to be employed.?

Peter Watson, executive director of the Deer Initiative, a partnership between Government agencies and countryside organisations, agreed that it was almost impossible to manage deer to reduce the impact on individual Sites of Special Scientific Interest without the help of landowners.

He said: ?It?s a combination of fallow deer and muntjac that are causing the greatest concerns. Our work is about obtaining an agreed vision between adjoining landowners as to what it is they want to do with their deer. We try to ensure that the negative impacts of the deer are outweighed by their positive values.?

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