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DEER IN E A S T ANGLIA

NORMA CHAPMAN Norfolk has been called the Bird Capital of Britain and I think we are justified in claiming East Anglia as the premier region for deer, in regard to the number of species and that applies whether we think in terms ancient or modern. O u r fossil deer, particularly from Norfolk, form the most important deer assemblages from the Pleistocene in Britain. In the present day, within East Anglia there are well established populations of five species. In Britain the total number of free-living deer species is six, stretched to seven if the managed herd of reindeer introduced in the Cairngorms were to be included. We can not claim an unbroken link with the fossil forms. The presence of the five species currently in the region is the result of accidental or deliberate events within the last Century, coupled with the suitability of the region. Whilst each species has its particular preferences for habitat, deer in general can be regarded as animals of woodland, preferably with open glades or pasture nearby. East Anglia, here defined as the four counties of Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk and present-day Cambridgeshire, is not a highly wooded area but it does have many parcels of woodland interspersed amongst arable land. Most of these woods are small, the most notable exception being Thetford Forest Park, the largest lowland forest in England (about 30,000 ha or 80 sq.ml). The woodland varies from recently man-made pine forests to remnants of the medieval deciduous forests of Epping and Hatfield. In contrast to many of our mammals, deer are continuing to increase in numbers and in distribution. Many woods that formerly held one species, often fallow, now also have muntjac and/or roe. This sounds like good news for the deer and the people who derive much pleasure from watching them. Yet these increases can create problems both for the deer and for humans sharing the ränge with the deer, and at some time or another that includes most of us. As our largest land mammals their food preferences, behaviour and movements have an impact on the activities or livlihood of foresters, farmers, market gardeners, orchard owners, gardeners, road planners and users, golfers and indeed conservationists. For the latter I have in mind the flora of some of East Anglia's wonderful ancient woodlands. Currently projects are in hand to bring small neglected coppice woodlands back into production. The presence of deer may be an important factor in the equation when assessing the viability and economics of the exercise. More than ever before we are in need of skilful deer management and that has to be based on knowledge of the populations in any particular area and requires Cooperation among all the interested parties if an acceptable balance is to be found. In the absence of the wolf and lynx man needs to regulate the numbers, but management can also, where appropriate, include the use of deterrents and physical barriers as well as the rifle. Deer also feature in a number of welfare issues -savaged by dogs, killed by undesirable methods by poachers, caught in snares or accidentally maimed when hay or silage is cut. As the populations increase so too do the number of deer killed or injured in road traffic accidents. The general public seldom

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appreciate that usually the most humane course of action for an injured deer is to put the animal out of its pain as soon as possible. Showing photographs of a particular fallow doe helps to put the message across. She was kept alive for 32 days after being hit by a car. Post-mortem examination revealed a ruptured diaphragm, a decomposing foetus, broken jaw and eleven fractures in the pelvis. The five species The Neolithic workers at the fiint mines at Grimes Graves must have known red deer well. Extracting large nodules of flint from deep down in the chalk would have been even harder work without that ready-made, multi-purpose tool, the antler. However, our present day red deer are not the direct descendants of those here 4000 years ago, for this species had died out in the wild over much of England by the first half of the nineteenth Century. The majority of the red deer in East Anglia are descendants of the carted deer, a sport once widespread in Britain but which ceased in England in 1963 when the last pack of Staghounds, the Norwich, were disbanded. A herd of red deer was kept in a paddock: in the latter years this was at Winfarthing in Norfolk, hence the hind on the village sign. On hunt days one or two deer were selected, loaded into a cart, driven to a suitable release point and subsequently chased by the field of riders. The hunt usually lasted several hours and covered many miles but sometimes the deer took a short-cut home to its paddock. If all went according to plan it stood at bay, was led back to the cart and was rewarded with extra feed when it reached home. Inevitably on som^ occasions a deer was not taken at the end of the day and sometimes one or twjo were released in order to be located ort afuture hunting day. In 1963 it was tnought that 72 remained living free in the breckland forests. Some of the stags at this time were exceptionally heavy with huge antlers, the finest wild red deer in Britain. The deer were under pressure from shooting and poaching and numbers declined. The Forestry Commission instituted a 'no shoot' policy on their land to enable to numbers to increase and set up the Breckland Red Deer Group, to foster interest and Cooperation among local land-owners (Chapman & Whitta, in press). Between 1971 and 1990 the annual census within Thetford Forest ranged from 28 to 157 animals, which represented from 34 to 74% of the total census for Breckland. From their stronghold in Thetford Forest some of the reds have dispersed to found new populations in other parts of Norfolk, Suffolk and N. W. Essex. Occasional escapees from parks or probably in recent years also from deer farms, have added to the red deer at liberty. Dispersing red deer can be great Wanderers and crop up in unexpected places. In any case the normal annual ränge of a red deer, especially for a stag, is likely to cover several or many sq.km. The area where the stags spend perhaps nine months of the year may be a long way from the rutting area. Whilst predominantly an animal of Scotland, small populations are quite widespread (Figure 1). In E. Anglia the two main areas are in Breckland and close to the coast around Dunwich Forest. Fallow deer similar, but considerably larger, to those of today were present

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Figure 1

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( GB-782, Ir-0, Ch.-Is-O ) ( GB-18, Ir-0, Ch. Is-0 )

Distribution of R e d D e e r (March 1992)

in Britain 250,000 years ago. It was n a m e d Clacton fallow a f t e r t h e coastal town w h e r e t h e first specimens were f o u n d in the 1860s. By 100,000 years ago t h e fallow had b e c o m e smaller and they died out during the Last Glaciation. It was not until the eleventh Century that they r e a p p e a r e d - brought by the N o r m a n s so they could h u n t t h e m in their forests and parks. P e r h a p s this was t h e first Species R e i n t r o d u c t i o n P r o g r a m m e . T h e fallow deer parks had their heyday in t h e medieval period. For the East Anglian counties approximately 260 p a r k s a r e k n o w n to have existed at some time during the 400 years prior to 1485 ( C a n t o r , 1983). T i m e s and fashions c h a n g e d . T h e medieval hunting park m e t a m o r p h o s e d in the 17th and 18th centuries into parkland as we k n o w it t o d a y , to Surround a stately h o m e . S o m e of these d e e r p a r k s are

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extant (e.g. Houghton, Holkham, Melton Constable, Helmingham, Quendon) and others survived until the early years of this Century. It was from parks such as A m p t o n , Ickworth, Campse Ashe, Henham, Orwell, Easton Park, Weald, Flixton, BĂźckling, Waresley and others that during either the First or Second World War that fallow escaped. Generally they established themselves in the vicinity of their park of origin. The rate of spread has been slow e.g. 0.6km/yr. in the case of several Essex populations (Chapman & Chapman 1975). In the King's Forest fallow had been established for decades but not until 1984 did they move into the main block of Thetford Forest Park a few miles away. Not all the free-living populations have originated in this way. Epping Forest has held fallow for centuries although nowadays there are more on the adjacent estates than within the Forest. When the M25 cut across the edge of the Forest an underpass was constructed for use by the deer and lengths of this motorway and the M l l have deer fencing. Until about the 1950s the Epping fallow were black and it is animals of this colour variety that are maintained within the sanctuary adjacent to the Forest which is in effect a deer park. Fallow are widely spread in Britain including East Anglia, because many parks gave rise to feral populations (Fig. 2). In Suffolk they are more widespread than the red, indeed they were until recently the most widely distributed species of deer within the county, but are now being overtaken in this respect by muntjac. One possible problem may lie ahead for our wild fallow deer. There are now available to deer farmers hybrids between our European fallow and the endangered Mesopotamiam sub-species of fallow deer. No farmer wants to pay a large sum of money for stock then let them escape but accidents and great storms do happen. It would be undesirable for wild fallow to be breeding with stock carrying Mesopotamian genes and impossible to keep track of the Situation. Roe deer have a long history in Britain, from the fossil record and down through archaeological sites of all ages. For reasons not yet fully explained they had died out over most of England, apart from the north, by the late 18th Century. In the 1880s several reintroductions were made - in Dorset, Sussex, Berkshire, Essex and breckland. Three to six pairs of roe from Germany were brought (about 1884) to the estate on which the Forestry Commission Offices are sited at Santon Downham near Brandon. After a period within an enclosure the roe were released. Their dispersal was gradual but accelerated with the development of suitable habitat as the breckland forests, planted from 1922 onwards, grew. In 1964/65 the F.C. estimated the population in their breckland forests as just under 500. Now there are several thousands plus many more beyond these Forests. They have colonised much of Norfolk, as far north as the coast and into broadland; woods on the Suffolk/Cambridgeshire, down into NW Essex and across to East Suffolk. The increase in our region is paralleled elsewhere: in recent years roe have been spreading down from the north and up from the south. (Fig. 3) It seems likely that further Suffolk records will be confirmed in the near future. The considerable increase in roe in Bradfield Woods Nature Reserve in the

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Figure 2

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( GB-1237, Ir-0, Ch.-Is-O ) ( GB-5, Ir-0, Ch. Is-0 )

Distribution of Fallow Deer (March 1992)

last decade prompted the erection of woven fences around newly coppiced areas. These seem to be successful in excluding the roe until the coppice stools have grown beyond the vulnerable stage and complement the culling part of the management. Another means of discouraging roe deer is being tried in a small private wood near Bury St Edmunds. H u m a n hair is suspended in net bags on tree guards and where the deer enter the wood, it is believed to be having the desired effect if the hair is renewed at monthly intervals. T h e much-heralded synthesised essence of lion dung is unlikely to be available for at least two more years. While roe deer continue to spread apace, so too do Reeves' muntjac, the smallest of our free-living deer. Along with a great diversity of other

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1960 onwards up to 1959

Figure 3

( GB-417, Ir-0, Ch.-Is-O ) ( GB-4, Ir-0, Ch. Is-0 )

Distribution of Roe Deer (March 1992)

ruminants, including many species of deer, they were kept at Woburn Park, Bedfordshire early this Century. They were released into the woods on the estate and some were sent to Whipsnade and other collections from where there were more escapes: additional releases, accidental or deliberate, have occurred over the years. Now this species is very widely established in England and parts of Wales. Figure 4 is a recent map from the National B.R.C. but is now out of date. Currently Prof. Stephen Harris and I are conducting a national distribution survey of muntjac and we are gratified by the very helpful response from many organisations and individuals. Negative returns are just as useful as the positive records and most valuable of all are dates when muntjac were first noticed in a particular area.

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Figure 4

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( GB-17, Ir-0, Ch.-Is-O ) ( GB-0, Ir-0, Ch. Is-0 )

Distribution of M u n t j a c (1992)

T h e r e w e r e a scattering of records in East Anglia b e f o r e three r e p o r t s in t h e S a n t o n D o w n h a m area in 1953. A few miles away in January 1961 on the E l v e d e n e s t a t e , at t h e western end of the Norfolk/Suffolk b o u n d a r y , a Startled m e m b e r of t h e shooting party r e m a r k e d to t h e g a m e k e e p e r , 'I think your dog has caught the devil!'. T h e animal was described as having slit eyes and w h a t a p p e a r e d to be nostrils 'just below t h e eyes as well as on the n o s e ' . This was indeed a m u n t j a c buck, a painting of which hangs in t h e estate m u s e u m . T h e 'nostrils below the eyes' were the sub-orbital scent glands, which a r e extremely large in m u n t j a c . By 1967 m u n t j a c were r e c o r d e d in t h e King's Forest and in just o n e part of T h e t f o r d F o r e s t but the '70s, '80s and now the '90s have seen a striking

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increase in numbers and distribution, and not just in East Anglia. Studies begun in the King's Forest in 1979 and still in progress are providing much information about this species. They select areas with diverse and dense Vegetation, particularly at the ground and shrub layers. The presence of oak, beech or chestnut trees is an added attraction, the nuts being a favoured food. They are primarily browsers but select a wide variety of seasonally available foods (Chapman et al, 1985). Bramble thickets provide both food and shelter. Being small and mostly solitary they can remain undetected until established, unless their loud barks are heard. Records from East Anglia are widespread except where the land class is totally unsuitable -e.g. fenland agricultural land and salt marshes. Ten years ago 66% of woods greater than 10 ha in old Cambridgeshire held muntjac (Symonds, 1982) and I suspect that figure is now 100%. In Suffolk it seems likely that there should be plenty more positive tetrads in the middle of the county. There are many records of urban sightings throughout East Anglia including Chelmsford, Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds, Newmarket, Thetford, Brandon, Norwich, Peterborough and Cambridge. Many muntjac are killed on roads and dogs also take their toll. Foxes undoubtedly take some young fawns but we have no idea how many. The females have the potential to produce a fawn at intervals of seven months over many yars. As soon as one is born the female comes into season again. This year-round breeding with no peaks but an even spread through the seasons (Chapman et al, 1984) must have contributed to the success of the species. It is also the reason why numbers have built-up in some areas to what are now considered to be unacceptable levels. Because decent stalkers did not want to run the risk of shooting a lactating female and leaving a fawn to starve, in many areas for years stalkers culled only males, which did virtually nothing to reduce the population. When culling of females is necessary my advice is to select the three-quarter grown females that will be about 7 - 8 months old. They may be pregnant, but for the first time so there is no fawn to be orphaned. When this policy alone is inadequate the next category to select are heavily pregnant does because by then the previous fawn will be independent. Recognition of these categories requires practice and patience, important skills for a stalker, and sometimes manipulation of habitat to ensure adequate views. The fifth of our established species, the Chinese Water Deer, was another introduction early this Century via Woburn Park and subsequently Whipsnade Z o o and elsewhere. The natural habitat of this species is coastal or inland wetland areas of reeds, rushes and long grasses in SE China. Not surprisingly, therefore, the Norfolk Broads have provided an ideal habitat where a population has become established within the last 25 years. In Cambridgeshire another water-logged habitat, Woodwalton Fen N N R , has provided reed beds and carr where a population has been present since the 1960s (Cooke and Farrell, 1983). From there they have spread a few miles to several woodlands such as Holme Fen. A couple of weeks ago one was killed on the A I near Stilton. The other established feral populations in Britain are in deciduous woodland not far from Woburn and Whipsnade. In Suffolk we can not claim them as a breeding species but from 1987 onwards

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t h e r e have been several live sightings and several road traffic accidents ( C h a p m a n , 1992). T w o sightings were at Minsmere (Macklin, 1990) and the rest have all been within a few miles of a wildlife park near T h e t f o r d which has a large colony of W a t e r d e e r . A little f u r t h e r away, in Bury St E d m u n d s , o n e was k n o c k e d down on t h e N e w m a r k e t R o a d . T h e reports of W a t e r deer in Hatfield Forest in Essex ( R a c k h a m , 1989) seem to be u n s u b s t a n t i a t e d , probably a case of mistaken identity as m u n t j a c , as well as fallow, are present at Hatfield F o r e s t . So of t h e four counties u n d e r consideration only Essex lacks c o n f i r m e d records (Fig. 5). A l t h o u g h multiple births are the n o r m in Chinese water d e e r survival rate

• o

1960 onwards up to 1959

Figure 5

( GB-546, Ir-0, Ch.-Is-O ) (GB-30, Ir-0, C h . I s - 0 )

Distribution of Chinese w a t e r d e e r (August 1992)

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is low and this alien has not been anywhere near as successful as muntjac. It is primarily a grazer and its habitat requirements are apparently far more specialised than those of muntjac. East Anglia can not boast a population of Japanese sika although occasionally a park or zoo escape is seen, as at Nacton from May to Oct. 1988 (Naunton, 1991) and occasionally near Melton Constable Park. When reports are made of sika they usually turn out to be fallow but a view of the rump, tail and hocks should settle any queries. However, we have to go only a few miles over our regional boundary to see some feral sika in Northamptonshire. The future Much remains to be known of the deer in the region and the first step, to which many people are contributing and many more could so, is to plot their distribution. In the case of the social group-forming species, the red and the fallow, detailed information on their seasonal movements would be of interest and indeed crucial for better management and when planning new roads. In the recent past there have been county distribution surveys published for Essex (Chapman, 1977), old Cambridgeshire (Symonds, 1983) and Suffolk (Cham. 1984). Currently a Water deer survey is in progress in Norfolk and the Suffolk Survey Covers all species of mammals. There have been various short and longer term studies on deer within the region too. At present, as far as I know, within East Anglia the only free-living deer being studied long-term are the muntjac and the roe in the King's Forest (Chapman, et al, 1985,1993; Forde, 1989) and the water deer at Woodwalton Fen. In East Anglia now, as in Britain in general, there are more deer than ever before. More observers are required to take up the gauntlet and at least survey some of the tetrads for which there are no deer records yet. The quarry is large and leaves obvious field signs and autumn/winter is the best time of year to begin. References Cantor, L. (1983) The Medieval Parks of England: a gazetteer. Loughborough University, Loughborough. C h a m , S . (1984) A survey of the distribution of deer in Suffolk Trans. Suffolk Nat. Soc., 20, 10-24. Chapman, D. (1977) Deer of Essex. Essex Naturalist (new series) No. 1, 1 50. Chapman, D. I., Chapman, N. G. & Dansie, O . (1984). The periods of conception and parturition in feral Reeves' muntjac (Muntiacus reevesi) in southern England, based upon age of juvenile animals. Journal of Zoology, London, 204, 575-578. Chapman, N. G . , Claydon, K., Claydon, M. & Harris, S. (1985). Distribution and habitat selection by muntjac and other species of deer in a coniferous forest. Acta Theriologica, 30, 287-303.

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C h a p m a n , N. G . , Claydon, K.., Claydon, M., Forde, P. G. & Harris, S. (1993) Sympatric populations of muntjac (Muntiacus reevesi) and roe deer (Capreolus capreolus): a comparative analysis of their ranging behaviour, social Organisation and activity. J. Zool. 229, 623-640. C h a p m a n , N . & W h i t t a , R . T h e h i s t o r y o f t h e deer o f T h e t f o r d Forest. Proc. of Symposium on Wildlife of Thetford Forest, 1991. (In press.) C o o k e , A . & Farrell, L. (1983) Chinese water deer. British Deer Society. Forde, P. (1989) Comparative ecology of muntjac and roe deer in a commercial coniferous forest. University of Bristol, unpubl. Ph.D. thesis. Macklin, R . N. (1990) Chinese water deer a t M i n s m e r e , 1989. Trans. Suffolk Nat. Soc. 26, 5. N a u n t o n , C. R . (1991) Sika deer - new to Suffolk. Trans. Suffolk Nat. Soc. 27, 5. R a c k h a m , O . (1989). The Last Forest: the story of Hatfield Forest. Dent, London. Symonds, R . J. (1983). A Survey of the distribution of deer in Cambridgeshire. Nature in Cambridgeshire, 52-60. Mrs N o r m a C h a p m a n , Larkmead, Barton Mills, Bury St E d m u n d s , Suffolk, IP28 6 A A

Figures I am grateful to the National Biological Records Centre for providing distribution maps. A dot represents a record for a 10 x 10 km. Square and makes no distinction between a breeding population and an itinerant animal. These m a p s do not include some records received by the Suffolk Biological Records C e n t r e . Distribution maps for Suffolk (August 1992) are shown in T h e Provisional Atlas of Suffolk Mammals.

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Deer in East Anglia  
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