Deer management

The High Weald has a long association with wild deer. They thrive in the area’s rich landscape mosaic of small fields, woodlands and hedgerows.

Native species of red and roe deer have been resident since the end of the last Ice Age, with non-native fallow deer imported to stock deer parks for hunting and food – most famously by Henry VIII on Ashdown Forest. Their presence has helped shape the landscape we know and love today.

At relatively low densities, deer can play an important role in maintaining open areas. They can enhance biodiversity and habitat quality.

However, milder temperatures and a lack of natural predators have led to an explosion of deer numbers in some areas of the High Weald.

Protecting the landscape…

Today, deer management is an essential part of protecting this precious landscape.

Through our Deer Management Coordinator, Sandy Williamson, we offer a range of support for landowners who are struggling with deer impact on their land – from in-person training events and surveys to help linking up with neighbouring landowners for collaborative deer management.

If you are a landowner or land tenant who would like to contribute to the sensitive management of the landscape and its ecology, the resources on this page will help get you started.

For an initial discussion, contact Sandy Williamson at sandy.williamson@highweald.org.

A newly planted tree that has been nibbled by deer

For deer stalkers – join our register

Following several requests from landowners for details of local deer stalkers, we are compiling a database of active stalkers in and around the High Weald National Landscape.

If you would like to be included on this list, please fill in our short registration form.

Please note, in filling in this form you are giving us permission to share your details with landowners. We will not recommend individuals; the database will be sent out in full to each landowner who requests it.

For landowners – request a copy of our deer stalker register

If you are looking to engage a deer stalker we have a database of contacts to help you in your search.

We haven’t vetted and don’t endorse any stalkers; this isn’t an exhaustive list, so we encourage you to follow the guidance in the resources at the bottom of this page.

Frequently asked questions about deer

The high level of deer pressure in woodlands is particularly associated with fallow deer, a herding species that indiscriminately browses crops and woods and is thought to be a major contributor to the decline in numbers of insects and birds such as nightingales.

In addition to the pressure on the environment, the increasing numbers of deer create substantial hazards for car drivers and the transmission of bovine tuberculosis by deer may occur where their densities are high.

We have a duty of care for the environment and a responsibility to help people understand the reasons why deer management plays an integral part in preserving biodiversity, protecting trees and sustaining farm crop yields.

Control of deer numbers by culling can be a sensitive subject. Managing deer in the High Weald does not call for eradication. Deer are an incredibly important part of the landscape in terms of history, amenity, recreation and economy. As land managers or stewards of the land, it is essential to understand that deer are a resource that has to be managed effectively and respectfully.

To manage deer effectively in the High Weald requires a joined-up approach. Deer are often stalked and shot on the basis of individual property boundaries. Sometimes the communication between landowner, land manager and deerstalker is minimal.

As deer are transient and do not stick to land boundaries, deer management is only effective if there is active communication across ownerships between all those involved.

Of the six species of wild deer in Britain, red and roe deer are native and fallow deer are now considered naturalised, with fallow being the most prominent species in the High Weald.

Roe deer are present throughout the High Weald although numbers are lower than average due to competitive pressure from fallow deer.

Muntjac are abundant in certain areas, particularly in dense rhododendron cover, and there are small groups of red deer and sika. Muntjac pose a serious threat to woodland diversity and should be managed accordingly, although fallow deer at lower population levels are considered non-detrimental if management is continuous.

The High Weald AONB Partnership, in conjunction with the Woodland Trust, is bringing landowners and deer stalkers together to form local deer management groups. Through these groups, we aim to facilitate the sharing of knowledge regarding deer in the area and to provide information on best practice, local deer issues, and rural crime issues.

Where there is consensus to coordinate deer management via a deer management group, landowners and deer managers can agree to support each other with common land management objectives such as controlling deer numbers to support woodland diversity. In addition to sharing knowledge, shared resources are also being promoted, for example use of chillers, larders and thermal cameras.

There is also funding available through the Farming in Protected Landscapes programme for deer management projects. Read more and submit an enquiry for an initial discussion.