Deer in Epping Forest could be culled over the next five years to bring the numbers down to 150.

The City of London Corporation is looking at bringing the numbers of deer down from an estimated 600 to 800 to a “more sustainable level” in the 8,000-acre wood which runs from Forest Gate to Epping.

It said too many deer can have an impact on the habitat of other wildlife and can also lead to over grazing.

Deer can also damage farm crops.

The Corporation commissioned a deer review in 2017 after an outcry when it gave the contract to cull deer to the private hunting club Capreolus Club in 2016.

Verderer Paul Morris, who campaigned against the private contract, said: “I am never going to be happy about culling deer, but I do understand that there is a level of management that has to go on.”

He said the abandoned contract for people to pay and hunt was “disgraceful”.

The deer review has recommended culling deer over the next few years using the Corporation’s own staff to bring numbers down.

Mr Morris pushed for them to wear body cameras.

And he said the Corporation has to be “realistic that we are talking about animals that people love.”

The woodland became a Royal Forest in the 12th century and is the home of fallow and Reeve’s muntjac deer.

Queen Elizabeth I had a hunting lodge there, which is still a popular attraction.

Currently the fallow deer range is bounded by the Lee Valley to the west, Roydon and Harlow to the north, the M11 to the east and Loughton and Chingford to the south.

The deer review looked at several options including contraception, moving the deer and re-wilding areas of the wood.

A report for the Epping Forest consultative committee said doing nothing would mean “deer numbers would continue to grow in the absence of any natural predator resulting in a negative impact on the biodiversity of the Forest, loss of crops and potential animal welfare issues.”

The other options are using contractors and volunteers to cull deer or using their own staff.

The first formal cull of fallow deer started in 2001, following more informal ones in the 1990s, the report said.

There is also a deer sanctuary in Red Oaks Wood in Theydon Bois.

In his report head forest keeper Martin Newnham said the other options were “discounted as being neither practical nor viable.”

His report said culling has excluded significant areas of the forest and has been “insufficiently consistent year-to-year to achieve relatively stable and sustainable fallow and muntjac populations and reduced levels of detrimental impacts”.

The review by The Deer Initiative Ltd said a range of conservation management organisations said culling protects the environment from the impact of grazing and browsing, on farm crops and protected forest habitats.

It said over-grazing can stop woodlands regenerating and can destroy habitats for invertebrates, woodland birds, small mammals and other protected species.

Mr Newham’s report said: “Overpopulation of deer will also result in deer welfare issues as food sources will become scarcer reducing overall the condition and health of the herd.”

County councillor for Loughton Central, Chris Pond, said: “It’s inevitable but they should do it in the most humane way with expert marksmen, nobody likes to see an animal killed.”

He pointed out that deer are quite shy and the rangers usually cull deer at times when people aren’t about.

The proposal will go to the committee in March for formal approval and if it gets the go ahead the numbers of deer will be reduced “progressively” over the next few years

The proposal will go to the Epping Forest committee in March for formal approval

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