Sika deer, Arne in Dorset - 2010
Arne is a small village and RSPB nature reserve near Wareham, Dorset overlooking Poole Harbour. I was allowed to use the disabled visitors' car park by the RSPB warden and that made it possible to reach the beach. On the path I noticed a number of signs warning visitors to stay away from the sika deer stags during rutting season as they can be quite aggressive during the autumn rut.
On my return to the RSPB office I queried the large number of sika deer I had seen running wild (more than 60!) and I was informed that these large numbers were AFTER a great cull the previous year (2009). It seems the Japanese sika deer was introduced as an exotic species on to Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour in the 19th century. Unfortunately no-one knew that the little buggers breed like rabbits and can swim like ducks. Others may have come from a deer park at Hyde, near Wareham.
It is possible that almost all English and Scottish and some Irish living sika are descendants from only one Japanese stag and three hinds introduced to Viscount Powerscourt's deer park at Enniskerry, Eire in 1860.
The British Deer Society is contributing funding and expertise to a joint project being carried out by RSPB and Bournemouth University investigating the populations of sika deer using the RSPB Reserve at Arne in the Isle of Purbeck and the impact they may be having on protected wetlands. The RSPB been concerned for some time that sika numbers at Arne have been increasing over recent years and are now at levels where they are causing serious damage to heathlands, reedbeds and estuarine saltmarsh vegetation.
www.flickr.com/photos/barryslemmings/sets/72157613029474460/ to see my nature set.