I love to see deer in the wild and have a number of them on my farm. There are six species in Britain, red, sika, fallow, roe, muntjac and Chinese water deer. However, red and roe are our only indigenous species. The deer population has increased over recent years, making sightings more common. But where numbers are too high they can become a pest, damaging crops, young trees and causing a danger on roads. A Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology report recently estimated that wild deer cause £4.3m worth of damage to English agriculture.
There are numerous things to look for if you want to see deer. First, watch out for footprints in soft ground. Deer are cloven-hooved like sheep and goats; the size of the print depends on the species and age of the animal. The pointed end of the print is the front of the hoof and indicates the direction the deer was walking. As with many animals, fresh droppings are also a sign that deer are near. Their dung is made up of brown or black pellets the size of peas.
Deer browse on a variety of plants, leaving a ragged edge as they only have incisors on their lower jaw. But the most common sign of deer is scarred tree bark. Males rub their heads against trees and bushes, leaving the bark frayed and bush damaged. Antlers are shed once a year, so if you are very lucky you may find one or even a pair.
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