Deer were in the past an unusual sighting, but not anymore. The UK has six species, of which only two are truly native: Red deer and Roe deer. Fallow deer are the most settled of the introductions, probably having been around for a thousand years following introduction by the Normans. The three remaining species are all relatively new to our shores, Muntjac, Chinese water deer and Sika deer all having been introduced from Asia in the last 100 or so years, started by the over curious Victorians.
At Chishill we have the pleasure of both Fallow and Muntjac and just Muntjac at Shelford. The Fallow have been seen in herds estimated to contain more than a hundred animals, while the Muntjac are much less social running it alone most of the time. Between them they bring their fair share of problems for us. The numbers of Fallow are a problem as they can overgraze an area. This can be seen in the crops but they are most damaging in the orchard area set aside for biodiversity. The sheer pressure of numbers overgraze the understory between the trees removing habitat for invertebrates, small mammals, amphibians and reptiles. This also opens the ground to allow the like of brambles to take hold, which are not all bad, but they in turn need managing. Following from the overgrazing comes the striping of bark in the depths of winter when food is most short, something which can kill trees.
We have tried to replant hedge sections in the past to no avail as the deer are more successful at removing the plastic guards than we are at replacing them. Looking forward to 2014 we will have a challenge as we start replanting trees in Marjorie. To beat the determination of the deer we will cost more than we will spend on the trees.