Deer cull could reduce road crashes

12.00 | 8 March 2013 | | 5 comments

A proposed cull of around half of the UK’s growing deer population could deliver road safety benefits as well as help the environment (BBC News).

The deer population is currently estimated at around 1.5 million; more than at any time since the last Ice Age. In the absence of natural predators deer populations are continuing to expand, threatening biodiversity and causing road traffic crashes and crop damage, say researchers.

In December 2012, the DfT published statistics which showed a sharp rise in the number of fatal road crashes involving animals. Eight people were killed in 2011, compared with one in 2010. The crashes are thought to have involved deer or sheep.

Dr Paul Dolman, ecologist at the University of East Anglia, led a census of roe and muntjac deer populations across 234 sq km (90 sq miles) of woods and heathland in Breckland, East Anglia.

The results indicate that existing management strategies are failing. Although deer numbers appeared stable in the area, this was only because thousands of the animals were being pushed out into the surrounding countryside each year. The new research suggests that only by killing 50% to 60% of deer can their numbers be kept under reasonable control.

Click here to read the full BBC News report.


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    We should all celebrate the fact that the UK has a healthy and growing deer population, it is a great credit to deer managers and the farming community that has allowed numbers of the 6 free living deer species to reach such healthy numbers, despite the environmental and commercial losses they can inflict on the rural economy. The idea that their numbers should be halved just because they cause a traffic nuisance is a sad reflection on our society.

    We had a near fatal accident outside our home, when a car driver swerved to avoid a duck and hit a tree; should we seek to halve the duck population too? I have seen the serious damage done to a car after hitting a badger, but let’s not go there!

    If we adequately fenced certain high risk stretches of road and gave the deer safe crossing places as they do in other countries and indeed some parts of the UK, then much of these issues could be avoided. Hopefully then Bambi and friends will continue to enrich all of our lives by their graceful presence.

    Alastair Brooks Kent
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    To be fair to the researchers and BBC, the original report very much focused on the environmental issues associated with deer, with only passing reference to road safety. Due to the nature of this newsfeed we elected to lead on the road safety side of the story. On reflection we may have been guilty of somewhat ‘sensationalising’ the issue, for which we apologise.

    Nick Rawlings, editor, Road Safety GB newsfeed
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    It’s not just arrogant and selfish ‘speeding motorists’ that are involved in collisions with Deer as cyclists can get tagged too. Found this in the Diss Express.

    “A COMMUNITY has rallied behind a much-respected town figure after a deer knocked him off his bike, leaving him partly paralysed.

    “The freak accident happened between Risby and Fornham All Saints, near Bury St Edmunds, when Peter Seaman, of Eye, was riding back from West Stow Country Park with other members of Diss and District Cycling Club on April 22…

    “According to Mick Madgett, who is a member of the cycling club and has known Mr Seaman for a number of years, a roe deer jumped out from a hedge on the side of the road as the group cycled past.

    He said: “Peter was pole-axed, coming clean off his bike, and I think the deer also then landed on top of him”.

    I think this shows that there is a possible safety issue for all road users, not just motorists.

    Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon
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    The phrase ”… deer populations…. are causing road traffic crashes” seems to sum up a typical arrogant and selfish attitude of the human race towards animals. “They’re interfering with our desire to move around at high speed in THEIR natural environment, therefore we must do away with them” mentality.

    A fundamental principle of road safety must be that if a driver/rider is choosing to travel at a higher speed with respect to vulnerable, slower moving or static ‘non –motorised’ road users in their immediate vicinity, they MUST surely assume ultimate responsibility for their actions and apart from protecting – fairly obviously – the human element i.e. pedestrians and cyclists, I don’t see why this shouldn’t include wild and domestic animals.
    The report also mentions sheep – how does a sheep “cause” a road traffic crash? It’s the humans behind the wheel that is the problem. Defensive driving is the key.

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
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    For heaven’s sake… has no-one who writes these stories the faintest grasp of statistics? A leap from one to eight in two sample years does not a trend make, let alone a statistically valid argument. And has anyone asked if an increase in collisions with deer (if such exists) could be equally likely down to increased vehicle movements rather than an expanding deer population?

    And why blame the deer when it’s not even clear if deer were responsible? Can’t the researchers tell the difference between sheep and deer?

    Responsible road safety is not about jumping on bandwagons or publishing shock horror headlines.

    Kevin Willams, Survival Skills Rider Training
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