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  1. ITV Report

Kill wild deer 'to support native woodland birds'

Photo: ITV News.

Wild deer in Britain should be hunted for venison to drastically reduce their populations and support the re-emergence of our native woodland birds, according to an academic at The University of Nottingham.

It comes after a new study in the 'Journal of Applied Ecology' suggests huge deer populations in England are damaging the natural habitat which many ground-nesting woodland birds require.

Dr Markus Eichhorn in the University's School of Life Sciences, an expert in ecology, said:

"Deer populations are at extraordinarily high levels due to a combination of factors including the absence of large predators, a decline in hunting and the autumn sowing of crops that produce winter food for foraging animals.

"It is clear from our research that if we want to encourage more woodland birds then we need to take action to restore the woodland structures they require but in many areas it will need a drastic reduction in deer to have any real impact.

"We should not think of it in terms of a cull. We already eat venison in Britain but a large proportion of that is farmed meat. If wild-caught deer appeared on our menus or in the local butchers it would encourage people to eat venison as readily as beef or lamb and would help conservation in our woodland areas."

– Dr Markus Eichhorn.
The experts at Nottingham were commissioned by the Government department Defra. Credit: ITV News.

The experts at Nottingham were commissioned by the Government department Defra in 2008 following a call to study the causes behind the decline of woodland birds such as the nightingale, marsh tit, willow tit and lesser spotted woodpecker in the UK.

Dr Eichhorn set out to establish implications for woodlands of large deer populations, including indigenous species of Roe and Red deer, as well as later Fallow deer which were introduced by the Normans and Reeves' muntjac.

Chinese water deer and Sika deer also arrived on our shores in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.