History and current status
The roe deer is primarily an animal of mixed and small woodland but is capable of adapting to a wide variety of habitats. It has colonised the northern conifer forests and has penetrated many towns, making use of gardens, parks and other open spaces where there is food and cover. It may also be seen well out into open farmland.
The roe deer is a native species which has been present in Britain since at least the Mesolithic period. However, probably because of over-hunting, it became extremely scarce in medieval times and by 1700 was considered extinct in southern and central England and all of Wales. It also disappeared in most regions of Scotland except for the northern Highlands. After 1800 there were re-introductions into England and colonies were established in Dorset, Sussex and East Anglia. At the same time, there was a gradual re-colonisation of most of northern England and Scotland. Today, roe deer occur in most of southern England, all of northern England and Scotland, and they are continuing to spread into the Midlands and Wales. The recent range expansion is shown on the map which is based on data from recent BDS Deer Surveys.
We consider it desirable to manage roe deer numbers for several reasons:
- Damage to crops, trees, gardens and woodland habitats is prevented
- Reduced-density populations of deer are generally healthier and more productive
- Roe deer venison provides a high-quality valuable game meat
- Useful, although not substantial, income for landowners can be derived from stalking and venison sales
It should be remembered that, in Britain, the roe's main woodland predators (such as lynx) no longer exist and man's intervention for this species can be easily justified in ecological terms.