Hunting Deer Could Help Wild Bird Populations to Recover
Ecology expert Markus Eichhorn, from the university of Nottingham, has suggested that the UK’s woodland bird population could be boosted by the hunting of deer for their venison.
A team of ecologists led my Dr Eichorn was commissioned by the government to research the causes of the decline in woodland bird populations. Several species including the nightingale, marsh tit, willow tit and lesser-spotted woodpecker are in severe decline. All four of these birds are now on the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds’ (RSPB) red list.
Ground-Nesting Woodland Birds
Ground-nesting birds have been negatively impacted by an increase in the deer population. In the last 25 years, the number of deer in the UK has doubled to approximately 2 million. The 1963 Deer Act gave the animals protection and controlled who could shoot them and this helped the deer to prosper. Also, In the past, these animals would have been preyed on by bears, lynxes and wolves but such predators no longer exist.
Deer are, themselves, an important element of the ecosystem. But the number of deer has risen to the point where they are damaging the natural habitats of the woodland birds. Dr Eichhorn’s team looked at 40 woodland areas across the UK and found that there was 68% less foliage near the ground in areas where there were high populations of deer.
Hunting for Venison
Dr Eikhhorn has stressed that he is not calling for a cull but rather that more deer are hunted for their meat. However, animal rights campaigners are not happy with his proposals. A spokeswoman for the animal rights group Animal Aid said: "It is humans that have caused deer populations to increase and these majestic animals should not be forced to pay for our mistakes with their lives."
The animals rights group PETA commented: "Ecological harmony will never be achieved through the barrel of a gun."
This will be a difficult situation to resolve. Both deer and wild birds are important and treasured aspects of British wildlife. But their needs are conflicting. It is the perfect example of how the disappearance of just a handful of species can lead to a raft of problems. Without wolves and lynx roaming the landscape, the deer population increases and then the birds suffer!
What do you think? Should we shoot wild deer for their meet to control their number or should we accept that the populations of woodland birds will decline?