Ashridge deer culling is a ‘necessary and humane practice’

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Ashridge bosses are reassuring the public that culling is a necessary and humane practice as the season is due to get underway.

The doe culling, which has in the past caused some upset among visitors to the picturesque estate, starts from November 1 and goes on for around three months.

It sees professional stalkers seek out and shoot the weaker animals, which also helps ensure a healthy bevy of deer. The meat is sold on to the food industry.

Estate general manager Graeme Cannon said: “The key thing is that the deer cull is very necessary because deer have no natural predator and the numbers need to be controlled.

“We are taking the place of the natural predator so the poorer and weaker ones will be taken out.”

The animals eat the estate’s rare plants, along with flowers that attract butterflies and young trees.

“What we want is to have a sustainable population of deer that is in balance with the environment,” said Graeme.

The numbers that are killed are calculated by an annual deer impact monitoring assessment. “It is something that is very carefully thought out in advance,” said Graeme. “It is not an easy job but it is a necessary job.”

Bucks are also culled but this runs over a longer period - from August to May - and tends to happen on farmland.

It is not clear how many deer currently roam free on the National Trust estate but Graeme said it is ‘many, many hundreds’.

The culling clashes with the rutting season, a time when many nature lovers visit the estate to spot deer, which means sometimes members of the public see deer being shot.

Graeme said: “Unfortunately occasionally people may see animals being culled, it is the nature of a working countryside that these things have to happen.

“If people do see people stalking, the best thing is to walk the other way.”