Managing deer within Essex Country parks

The United Kingdom is home to six species of deer and the Essex Country Parks are no exception as the most common in the county are fallow, muntjac and roe deer. In fact, some of our sites began as medieval deer parks dating back to the 12th century.

We are passionate about conservation and want to ensure that a diverse mix of plants and animals thrive within our green spaces, which is why we must manage the local deer population within our parks to ensure we keep a healthy balance.

The impact of deer on country parks

Local deer populations can have a substantial impact on woodlands if there are no effective controls in place.

Without management, deer populations rise to high densities and numbers as they have no natural predators following the extinction of bears, lynx and wolves. The herds become too big for the habitat to support them, and the deer are likely to suffer from sickness and starvation.

The impact of large deer populations is also extremely damaging to local ecosystems. They can stop woodlands from regenerating as the deer feed on the bark and branches of young saplings. If the deer stop the regeneration of new trees than we will end up with no trees.

Research by the British Trust for Ornithology has found that common species including robin, wren and blackbird are also less likely to be in woodland areas browsed by deer. Some of our most vulnerable breeds - such as nightingale, nightjar and woodcock - are also affected by deer grazing and browsing they destroy the undergrowth which these species use for nesting.

The impact of high-density deer populations is also extremely damaging to local ecosystems. Deer will eat wild flowers, such as bluebell, primrose and oxlip, which means that carpets of spring flowers within woodlands turn into grassy species-poor ‘lawns’. This affects the habitats that other species – such as butterflies, small mammals and birds – rely on for shelter and food.

How we are managing the population at Weald Country Park

We are working with a deer management contractor team to cull the deer at Weald Country Park during the winter months to improve both the deer population and the flora and fauna within the park.

The cull will take place between 6.00am to 8.00am when the park is officially ‘closed’ to visitors (except those who accessing from public footpaths). It will take place at this time to limit the impact on members of the public.

Signage is in place to make walkers aware of the works in the relevant areas of the park and we would advise all dog walkers keep their animals on the lead if, and when, they are accessing the site from the public rights of way outside of opening hours.

Read more about managing deer populations and why it is important with Forestry England: Managing deer in the nation’s forests | Forestry England