London Wildlife Trust Deer SurveyLondon Wildlife Trust

Deer in London: Deer are an important component of our natural heritage and seeing a wild deer in London is always a delight. We know deer sightings in London have been increasing but we need to know more about their numbers and distribution to understand their possible impact on the capital’s natural environment.

Wild deer numbers in Britain are now the highest they have been since post glacial times. Populations are increasing both in number and geographical locations.

High densities of deer in woodlands can prevent natural regeneration of trees and shrubs, and adversely impact upon wildflowers and the shrub layer. This can have an impact upon a range of biodiversity including breeding birds like blackcap and plants like wood anemone and bluebell.

As deer no longer have natural predators in Britain, deer management practices are likely to be required in order to help conserve woodlands; however we first need to know where the deer are and in what numbers. Not enough is currently known about how many deer actually live in London or whether they are causing significant damage to woodland and other important habitats around the capital.

Fallow deer hind and fawn

How to spot a deer: There are six species of deer in Britain. Red deer and roe deer are native species. Fallow deer were introduced with the Normans in Medieaval times. While muntjac, Chinese water deer and sika were introduced from Asia within the last 150 years.

All stags (males) grow and shed antlers annually except Chinese water deer which have tusks. Sometimes female deer (except Chinese water deer) can have small bumps on their heads.

Where to spot a deer: Wild deer are most likely to be seen in London’s outer fringes. There are regular sightings in the woods of Barnet, Bromley, Croydon, Havering, Hillingdon and Waltham Forest. Some deer have even been reported at Sydenham Hill Wood and Tooting Bec Common. Most prefer to live in woodland where there is significant cover, while muntjac can sometimes be seen in gardens. But many species use farm land, allotments, London’s parks and railway banks during the hours of darkness. Chinese water deer are generally more selective and favour wetter habitats such as reedbeds.

When to spot a deer: Deer are active through the day and night although the smaller species (roe, muntjac) are more likely to be nocturnal.

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