Numbers of deer on Cannock Chase could be dramatically reduced – if new proposals are implemented.
Experts are urging all-out war on deer which could see close to a million animals being shot each year in the UK.
Culling on a massive scale is necessary just to keep the exploding deer population at its current level, they say. The call to arms was made after new research showed that only by killing 50-60 per cent of deer can their numbers be kept under reasonable control.
This is slaughter on a far greater scale than the 20 per cent to 30 per cent culling rates recommended before.
With total deer numbers conservatively estimated at about 1.5 million, it could result in more than 750,000 animals being shot every year.
Deer are said to be having a devastating effect on woodland, damaging farmers’ crops, causing road accidents and threatening a danger to public safety in urban areas.
Shooting by trained and licensed hunters is the only practical way to keep their populations in check, according to Dr Paul Dolman, from the University of East Anglia.
“I don’t think it’s realistic to have wolves and brown bears in rural England,” he said at a news briefing in London. “In the absence of natural predators, the only way to manage them is to shoot them.”
Although they were kept on private land belonging to the nobility, native wild deer were virtually unknown in England for 1,000 years until their re-introduction by the Victorians.
Today, there are more deer in the UK than at any time since the Ice Age. Although it has been suggested that they could number more than 1.5 million, no-one knows for certain how many there are.
Each year more than 14,000 vehicles are severely damaged and about 450 people injured or killed on British roads as a result of collisions with deer.
Deer strip woodland of wild flowers, brambles and shrubs, and disturb the ecology to the point that native birds are lost. The fact that nightingales are now so rare is largely blamed on deer.
Britain has a total of six deer species. Roe deer and red deer are the only two species native to the UK. Four others have been introduced from abroad since Norman times.
The most recent newcomers were the muntjac deer and the Chinese water deer, which became established in the wild in the 1920s.