The Isle of Wight Forest Design Plan

In 2017 the Forestry Commission launched a consultation on their Isle of Wight Forest Design Plan, this is how we responded:-

The Isle of Wight’s rich woodlands evolved in presence of wild deer1,2,3,4, , in common with much of southern England these deer populations declined during the 18th century and had disappeared by the mid 19thcentury, only to re-emerge again in the late 20th century.  On the mainland these re-emerging deer have descended from a mixture of escapees from captivity, re-introductions and the natural spread of wild deer, the same appears to be true of the island’s deer. There is no evidence to support claims that there are no naturally occurring deer on the island16.

Of the five deer species 17that have been seen on the island in recent years both the Red and Roe have the distinction of being amongst the island’s scarcest native woodland mammals.

Scientific research including that done by the Forestry Commission indicates that both having too many and too few deer is detrimental to biodiversity 5,6,7,8.  There is circumstantial evidence that despite the richness of our woodlands we may be slowly losing both flora and fauna species as a result of the relative scarcity of deer.  To give but one example some of the woodland birds that are quite commonly found in the New Forest have been described as “curiously absent” from the Isle of Wight9.  Scientific research illustrates the beneficial interactions of deer activity with these birds10,11 .

Tawny Owl

The Isle of Wight Forest Design Plan sets itself the objective:-

“To maintain and enhance the favourable conservation status of a naturally important wildlife site”.

Heathland, Acid Grassland and Wood Pasture are mentioned as priority habitats and the Design Plan acknowledges that many of these were once grazed by deer. These grazing activities helped to maintain floral diversity and aid seed dispersal. 

IW Deer Conservation believes that wild deer have a role to play in maintaining these priority habitats in the future as they have done in the past.

Both the IW Forest Design Plan and South England Forest Deer Management Strategy make various claims pertaining to the absence of deer being of benefit to our unique flora and fauna, however scientific research indicates that this is not true, and that woodland biodiversity decreases when deer are not present. Both historical and archaeological records indicate that wild deer and the rest of the island’s unique flora and fauna flourished together over thousands of years in our rich woodlands. Claims that any deer present on the island have posed a threat to this unique ecology appear to be without foundation.

Source: Forestry Commission FB 18

IW Deer Conservation believes that the biological diversity of the islands woodlands would be best served by the sustainable management of our local deer with the presence of native deer species being prioritised.

The Forestry Commission claim that:-

“Our overall objective for deer management, in line with Government’s aim in England is to maintain a well-managed and healthy deer population, which presents no threat to long term environmental, social or economic sustainability, and to limit as far as is practical, the further spread of recently introduced species”.

Whilst Defra have set out the terms of reference for the management of deer on the public estate12 and have stated that:-

“The Defra  family will continue to manage deer populations on public land at sustainable levels, ensuring best practice at all times”

They have further stated that:-

“Defra policy on wild deer management applies equally across England, and the Isle of Wight is no exception18.”

The Deer Initiative publishes these best practice guides which together with their Vision Statement and Accord set out these minimum acceptable standards for deer management.

 

The Isle of Wight is a geographically self-contained area which restricts cross-Solent deer migration, the Forestry Commission claim to have successfully controlled both native and naturalised deer species on the island in the 20th century and to have received widespread support from landowners for doing so. This together with reference to the past history of wild deer on the island indicates that landscape scale deer management for these species is entirely feasible here.

However, it would appear that persecution of these native deer in an ill-conceived attempt  to establish the Isle of Wight as a long term experimental deer free zone13,14,15 may have merely widened the ecological niche for the island’s Muntjac deer to expand into.

Neither the Isle of Wight Forest Design Plan nor the South England Forest Deer Management Strategy (17.Isle of Wight) are compliant with Defra policy, the Forestry Commission’s own policy for the rest of southern England, and the principles set out in the Deer Initiative’s Best Practice, Accord and Vision statements.

This is unacceptable, both the IW Forest Design Plan and South England Deer Management strategy (17.Isle of Wight) clearly need to be urgently revised.

We believe that it will be beneficial to both the island’s deer and woodland ecology if a careful balance is struck between the deer and their environment with neither too few nor too many being present and that all those involved in this deer management should fully acquaint themselves and comply with both the Defra policies and the Accord and Vision Statement of the Deer Initiative

A bona fide deer management plan is necessary for the island and we would like to invite the Forestry Commission to participate in further discussions regarding the drafting of such a plan. 

If you have any comments to make about this submission or would like further information on the issues raised please contact Isle of Wight Deer Conservation by email deerwight@gmail.com

Citations:-

1 A new, correct, and much-improved history of the Isle of Wight. John Albin 1795

2 A History of the Isle of Wight. Richard Worsley 1781

3 Faunal remains from radiocarbon-dated soils within landslip debris from the Undercliff, Isle of Wight – R.C.Preece

4 The Oglander memoirs. Sir John Oglander (Brannon 1888)

5 Deer Initiative Vision Statement, Accord & Best Practice Guides

6 The Impact of Deer on Woodland Biodiversity FCIN 36, Gill

7 Exclusion of large herbivores: Long-term changes within the plant community. Trinity College, Dublin

8 Forests and Biodiversity UK forestry Standard Guidelines. F.C.

9 Isle of Wight Natural Area Profile, NA 76

10 Impact of deer on woodland invertebrates. AJA Stewart

11 Woodland deer and small mammal ecology. J.R.Flowerdew & S.A.Ellwood

12 The sustainable management of wild deer populations in England. DEFRA 2011

13 Email Andy Page via BDS

14 Parkhurst FDP 2005

15 Correspondence FC Bristol et al

16 FOI requests

17 IW Deer Conservation Survey & related emails

18 Email Defra

 

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The British Deer Society

 

 

 

“The British Deer Society aims to be the go-to place for objective and unbiased information on the biology of deer and methods of deer management, humane treatment and control.”

Established in 1963 The membership of the British Deer Society (BDS) is  comprised of a broad range of people with a knowledge base ranging from academic deer ecology and biology specialists to those with many years of practical experience of deer management, and of course people who simply like deer.

The BDS believes that “If wild deer management is based upon sound scientific principles, it will encourage the co-existence of wild deer populations in balance with farming, forestry, public access and other land uses and also safeguard the health and welfare of the deer themselves.”With this in mind the BDS provides research grants for suitable projects and runs a comprehensive range of high quality deer related training courses.

But this is not all that they do:-

They also advise government and key public bodies on deer related issues to ensure that politicians and decision makers have an evidence base founded on practical and factual advice, although you cannot always guarantee that this advice is taken, especially if there is some hidden agenda.

The BDS has an ongoing engagement process with a wide range of private and public sector organisations and lobbies for a thriving and sustainable wild deer population.

“The BDS promotes deer education, research and management best practice to ensure a healthy and sustainable deer population in balance with the environment; a key feature of the biodiversity of the UK landscape.”

The BDS is ably led by Professor Rory Putman who is widely experienced both as an academic and as a practical deer manager. He ran Southampton University’s Deer Management Research Group for 20 years which had the objective of discovering how deer interacted and impacted on their environment. His career then moved on to launching a successful deer management consultancy whilst still retaining his links with academia with visiting professorships at the Universities of Glasgow and at Utrecht. He is a successful author contributing to numerous research papers and a wide range of books not just about deer but wider topics including animal behaviour and ecology.


To learn in greater detail about the work of the British Deer Society and how to join them please visit their website.

For periodic updates please email deerwight@gmail.com, thank you for your interest and support

Isle of Wight Deer Conservation Newsletter & Survey Update 2018

Red deer Isle of Wight

Sightings

The past 12 months have been an interesting time for wild deer sightings on the island with numerous new reports of their presence.

Roe deer have been seen at multiple locations across the island during late spring and summer, including the great photo of the Roe buck seen in West Wight which was shared around social media.  There was also the well publicised but sad demise of a Roe buck that took to the water at Puckpool Park on the island and drowned in a rescue attempt off Southsea.

There have been a few sightings of Red deer, but most observations are of Muntjac, either singly or in pairs.  Muntjac deer are great hiders and for people to be regularly spotting them indicates that numbers may be increasing. However there have been no reports of any noticeable damage incurred by any of the deer species.

There have been no new sightings of Sika deer reported to the survey since last year,

There have yet to be any sightings of Chinese Water Deer on the Isle of Wight. Despite their love of wetland habitats, and unlike other deer, they seem to be reluctant to take to the sea.

From the reports to the survey wild deer appear to be thinly dispersed across most of the island and are not at all common anywhere. They have also been seen swimming across the Solent in both directions.

It is becoming evident from the interest shown in the media reports that members of the public are pleased to see deer on the Island, with many having no idea that there were any here. Sharing knowledge about the benefits of having a deer population on the Island is important.

 

Roe buck

Deer Management Plans

Defra deer policy England-Forestry Commission Lyndhurst

 

One of the odd things about the Isle of Wight is that we are one of the few, if not the only, English County which lacks a properly conceived deer management plan.

Deer management plans (DMPs) provide a practical and effective framework within which landowners, land and deer managers can acknowledge and then attempt to balance the differing uses demanded from an area of land.  A central principle of all DMPs is that good deer management should aim to maintain healthy deer populations in balance with their environment.

They are drawn up after consideration of many factors and require background information relating to what species of deer are present, their numbers, their habitat and what impact they may be having on it, these impacts can be beneficial and it would be a mistake to simply assume that all deer impacts will be negative. In fact research by the Forestry Commission and respected academic institutions clearly demonstrates that woodland biodiversity is at its maximum when sufficient deer grazing is taking place.

Defra by email

So why bother with a DMP at all and why not just leave things to nature to sort out? Unfortunately with so many conflicting land uses this is not possible, especially with the risks to biodiversity posed by imbalances caused by there being either too few or too many deer present.  But there are other factors to consider, alien invasive species of deer may displace the native ones, fears have been expressed about  Muntjac displacing Roe, and Sika hybridising with Red deer. And of course without a properly conceived DMP some irresponsible land managers will see deer solely as vermin and try to exterminate every last one of them, whatever damage to environment may result.

Unlike many areas of the mainland that suffer from having too many deer, on the Isle of Wight we have the opposite problem, too few deer. This lack of deer grazing in our woodlands has led to wood pasture habitats becoming threatened and the progressive loss of some of the island’s rich woodland biodiversity.

Scientific research describes how the Pearl Bordered Fritillary butterfly benefits from deer grazed woodlands. Sadly in recent years this species has become lost to the island.

Isle of Wight Deer Conservation continues to strive for the establishment of a well balanced DMP for the island.

Pearl-bordered Fritillary Butterfly

 

 

A successful deer reintroduction project

Red deer hind & calf

The Pirbright ranges comprise of 720 hectares of SSSI lowland heath owned by the M.O.D. in Surrey.

Lowland heath only exists in a narrow belt along the North Atlantic seaboard and between 1850 and 1980 the UK lost 85% of this valuable wildlife habitat.

Management of this land had proved to be problematic, there were frequent uncontrollable fires that threatened both the rare resident wildlife and nearby homes, and there was the threat of the land reverting to scrub and secondary woodland with further losses of the heath together with its dependent species.

In conjunction with the Surrey Wildlife Trust a number of options were considered including brush cutting, turf stripping and grazing by domestic livestock. However, the solution that has proved to be most successful was the reintroduction of native red deer that had been absent from the site for around 200 years.Since the commencement of the project in 2010 these deer have been progressively building up their numbers to a herd size of 160 animals in 2016.

The grazing action of these deer has as anticipated prevented further scrub regression and heather has been kept at the pioneer stage to the benefit of woodlarks and the heather heath beetle. But there have been other beneficial effects as well. Preferential grazing of grasses has led to the creation of transitional areas of acid grassland and mires which support communities of the plants and invertebrates that prefer that kind of special habitat whilst bare areas of deer trackways are utilised by burrowing solitary bees.

The project has been considered an outstanding success. It has attracted international interest and has received the Sanctuary Award for environmental contributions to MOD land.

For further information on the Pirbright Ranges Deer Project please contact the Surrey Wildlife Trust

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IW Deer Conservation would like to express their gratitude to all those that have chosen to participate in the survey so far.  To help us to build up as comprehensive a picture as possible about the island’s deer further participation in the Isle of Wight Deer Survey from individuals, businesses and other organisations is most welcome.For periodic updates please email deerwight@gmail.com, thank you for your interest and support

External links that you may find interesting:-

Surrey Wildlife Trust

The British Deer Society Isle of Wight Deer

Isle of Wight Deer Survey

Isle of Wight Deer

Isle of Wight Deer Album

For greater details about wild deer within the UK please visit the British Deer Society website – BDS

 

British Deer Society support island’s deer

British Deer Society – Isle of Wight Deer

For periodic updates please email deerwight@gmail.com, thank you for your interest and support

External links that you may find interesting:-
Background information on the island’s deer – Isle of Wight Deer
Photos of deer on the island – Isle of Wight Deer Album

For greater details about wild deer within the UK please visit the British Deer Society website – BDS

Isle of Wight Deer Survey update(3)

Welcome to our 2017 update

When Isle of Wight Deer Conservation launched the Isle of Wight Deer Survey in 2015 it was with the aim of discovering which species were present on the island and any impacts that they may be having.

Our survey once again gives a snapshot of this wild deer activity, with Muntjac being discussed most often and a new species Sika being noted.
These deer are mostly observed either singly or in pairs throughout the year and although well distributed they do not appear to be concentrated in any particular area, with males, females and young all being recorded.

The mention of Sika comes as no surprise, they are present along the shoreline from Lepe to Hurst Spit and it was this species that colonised the Arne Peninsular in Dorset by swimming across Poole Bay after their initial release on Brownsea Island.
Chinese Water Deer have previously been seen around Southampton Water and Bosham Creek but appear to be the only one of the six deer species extant in the wild in the UK that has not been recorded on the Isle of Wight.

The island’s unique woodlands evolved in the presence of wild deer and there are complex ecological relationships between them and other species such as ground flora, bats, birds and invertebrates, leading to a rich woodland environment.
Deer densities are pivotal to establishing this natural balance, if either too many or too few deer are present it can be very damaging to woodland biodiversity. Isle of Wight Deer Conservation is able to advise and assist in achieving this balance.

There have been no reports of adverse deer impacts on the island to the survey and the Forestry Commission have also confirmed that they too have not noticed any problems caused by deer in their woodlands here either.

IW Deer Conservation would like to express their gratitude to all those that have chosen to participate in the survey so far. To help us to build up as comprehensive a picture as possible about the island’s deer further participation in the Isle of Wight Deer Survey from individuals, businesses and other organisations is most welcome.

A Red deer hind hiding amongst the Bracken

For periodic updates please email deerwight@gmail.com, thank you for your interest and support
External links that you may find interesting:-
Background information on the island’s deer – Isle of Wight Deer
Photos of deer on the island – Isle of Wight Deer Album
The British Deer Society Deer Distribution Survey 2016 

Isle of Wight Deer Survey update(2)

An emerging picture

When we launched the Isle of Wight Deer Survey in 2015 we embarked on a voyage of discovery to learn more about the deer living in the wild on the island. Following on from what we learnt last year (see update 1) we have been pleased by the interest shown by the general public and have received some very good detailed responses and occasionally photographs as well.

Species present

Red and Roe, Fallow and Muntjac have all been seen on the island in recent years whilst Sika and Chinese Water Deer appear to be absent.
Sika are frequently seen along the western shores on the mainland side of the Solent, including Hurst Spit just a mile off our own shores. It was this species that colonised the Arne Peninsular after swimming across Poole Harbour from Brownsea Island.
Chinese Water deer have been seen in both the New Forest and near to Chichester on the mainland but unlike other deer species they are not keen swimmers.

Where they may be found

Wild deer continue to be seen dispersed across the island, both singly and in groups with immature and mature animals having been observed. Although not numerous Red and Muntjac deer are the species most often encountered.

Environmental impacts

Deer at modest densities are known to be  beneficial to the environment and increase biological diversity,  our survey has received no details of any adverse deer impacts on the island.

The survey

IW Deer Conservation would like to express their gratitude to all those that have chosen to participate in the survey so far. To help us to build up as comprehensive a picture as possible about the island’s deer further participation in the Isle of Wight Deer Survey from individuals, businesses and other organisations is most welcome.

For periodic updates please email deerwight@gmail.com, thank you for your interest and support

External links that you may find interesting:-

The British Deer Society – BDS

Background information on the island’s deer – Isle of Wight Deer
Photos of deer on the island – Isle of Wight Deer Album

 

Red deer yearling

Isle of Wight Deer Survey Update (1)

Isle of Wight Deer Survey Update (1)

Early responses

Subsequent to the establishment of IW Deer Conservation in 2015 we sought to engage with the general public, local businesses, other conservation groups and public sector organisations to discover more about deer in the wild on the island, which species are present and what impacts that they may be having.

Early responses have given an interesting insight regarding our island’s deer.

There have been sightings of both the native species, Red and Roe, and introduced Fallow and Muntjac have also been seen. There have been no reports of either Sika or Chinese Water Deer. Although non-native it should be noted that Fallow appear to have been present here from shortly after the Norman conquest until at least the end of the 18th century and may also have been present during the Roman occupation.

Deer have been seen both singly and in family groups with young.

Some respondents have only seen deer on one occasion whilst others have seen them more often, over a period stretching back from the present day (2015) to the mid-1990’s.

Some public authorities are reported as describing any deer seen on the island as “deer farm escapees”, irrespective of where the deer came from,  even for deer species that have never been farmed nor kept in captivity on the island.

No person or organisation has reported any adverse impacts from deer to the natural environment or their business on the island.

IW Deer Conservation would like to express their gratitude to all those that have chosen to participate in the survey so far.

Please help us to build up as comprehensive a picture as possible about the island’s deer, further participation in the Isle of Wight Deer Survey from individuals, businesses and other organisations is most welcome.

For periodic updates please email  deerwight@gmail.com, thank you for your interest and support

External links that you may find interesting:-

The British Deer Society – BDS

Background information on the island’s deer – Isle of Wight Deer

Photos of deer on the island – Isle of Wight Deer Album

Red deer calf in woodland

Red deer calf in woodland