Friday 29 March 2019

Stags in the city: how deer found their way into our town centres and back gardens

As the UK’s deer population explodes, more of the animals are heading into urban areas. Why – and will they be welcome there?
Wed 20 Mar 2019 12.00 GMT
If you head out to the shops today, or a churchyard, or a school, or a playground, and you live in a town or city, you might be in for a surprise. Cats, dogs, squirrels, even foxes are part and parcel of our urban landscapes now but increasingly, it’s not out of the question that you might just as easily meet a deer.
The deer population in the UK is at the highest it has been for at least 1,000 years, at around two million. Over the past few decades, does and stags have been spotted in urban areas and villages around the UK, from Glasgow, to Sheffield and London. This week, the Royal Horticultural Society released guidance on how gardeners can deer-proof their outdoor spaces. Replace tulips with daffodils and red hot pokers, it suggests, because deer don’t like the taste and it will stop them rummaging through your flowerbeds.
So how did deer come to wander into our back gardens? For a start, population growth. Accurate data on exact deer numbers is scarce because the animals are secretive with a significant range. However, there is evidence that numbers of red, roe and muntjac deer are increasing. In Scotland, the deer population has doubled in the past 50 years. There are many reasons for this: since wolves, lynx and bears became extinct hundreds of years ago, deer have had no predators to contend with. They, along with other wildlife, have also benefited from other factors including milder winters, increased woodland cover in some areas and changes in farming such as the planting of winter crops.

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