Managing the Impact of Deer in Woodland

Managing the Impact of Deer in Woodland
October 18, 2023
Hamsterley Village Hall, DL13 3RF

Managing the Impact of Deer in Woodland

A free event looking at the impact of deer on woodlands and how to manage deer and demonstrating innovative technologies to support deer management.

Event summary

Across the UK, we are experiencing a (vital) growing interest in creating, expanding, and improving woodlands for a variety of social, environmental, and economic reasons. Simultaneously, the threats that woodlands face are increasing. Growing numbers of pests and diseases and climate change are impacting tree and woodland health and productivity which knocks onto the multifaceted benefits they provide. Deer are one such threat to woodlands and on the 18th October 2023, Northwoods explored the impact of deer on woodlands whilst also looking at innovative tools to assess local populations and risks and manage the impact of deer on woodlands.

The event was hosted in Hamsterley, County Durham and attended by over 30 individuals including landowners, land managers and rangers, stalkers, and forestry professionals. The morning session was held in the well provisioned Village Hall to improve awareness of deer populations and innovative management tools and markets before heading out to Hamsterley Forest in the afternoon to look at the impact of deer and other animals on a restocked area and demonstrate thermal imaging tools to survey deer populations.

Arman Siddiqui, Forestry Commission Deer Officer for the North East and Yorkshire region, opened with an informative and engaging presentation to improve attendees knowledge of deer species, populations, and their impacts on woodlands highlighting that different species of deer cause different impacts on woodlands including: fraying and bark stripping to avariety of heights, browsing seedlings up to thicket stage, damaging the ground vegetation and herb layer, nip off lead stems, and pulling down recently planted trees. Depending on local populations, deer can impact tree and stand quality, natural regeneration, and increase tree vulnerability to other pestsand diseases. Arman finished his session by looking at methods to assess the levels of impact and methods to mitigate and prevent damage as well as highlighting the grant support available to woodland owners through the Forestry Commission.

Following a short break, the event entered into an “innovation sprint” with a series of short presentations from a range of forestry innovators:

Oli Smith and Tom Lawson from WildTrackPro provided a whistle stop tour of their services including the innovative software developed to help automate the collection and reporting of relevant wildlife management and conservation. Datails collected by sending messages in WhatsApp to a WildTrackPro AI, which then logs the information and makes it available on an online portal. The software handles and auto-completes WS1 and WS3 grant and monitoring forms, deer and squirrel management plans, and annual deer and squirrel records.

SJ Hunt from the Country Food Trust was scheduled to present second however, unfortunately, was unable to be there on the day. The Country Food trust is a food poverty charity set up in 2015 to feed people inneed with much needed protein-based meals. They work with shoots and estates to procure the meat and distribute the meals for free to food banks and community kitchens. They are working with NGO’s, government and venison working groups to discuss ways to improve the market for venison, encourage sustainable levels ofdeer control and use the increased supply of meat to help feed people in need.

Finally, Amy Gresham from the iDeer research project presented on the development of an integrated decision-support tool for managing the risk of deer alongside woodland creation. Sponsored and supported by a range of organisations including Future of UK Treescapes, University of Reading, Sylva Foundation, Forest Research, and the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, the project is developing a deer damage risk map which updates depending on land management decisions. For example, the tool will be able to show the risk of deer damage to existing woodland, and also predict the risk to newly created woodlands whilst also anticipating the impact of the new woodland on local deer populations and the knock-on effect to existing woodlands.

Following the innovation sprint, the floor was opened to questions from the audience to the morning speakers. A range of topics were discussed including: the challenge of finding appropriate stalkers/land for stalking; the growing skills and knowledge gap as fewer individuals come into the sector and the lack of training providers locally; the availability of markets for venison; public perception; the impact of grants; the discordance around stalking agreements and compensation.  

The Country Food Trust supplied a hearty lunch of venison ragu for attendees, which was well received with clean plates all round.

The afternoon saw the attendees move in convoy to the heart of Hamsterley Forest to look at the impacts of deer on a restocking site. The group split in three with Arman, Andrew Rothwell and Paul Pickett from Forestry England each leading a group to identify impacts. Deer damage identified included fraying and bark stripping, browsing, nipping of lead stems. Damage also identified was also attributed by hares and rabbits.

Following the damage assessment, WildTrackPro demonstrated how thermal imaging and drone surveying can support landowners and managers establish species and population densities with greater accuracy. Several attendees also showed off their own handheld thermal imaging devices with general agreement that recent advances in thermal imaging capabilities and improved accessibility to handheld devices and contractors who provide thermal imaging surveys was a “game changer” in undertaking wildlife surveys. The information collected from the surveys can be a powerful tool in understanding local deer populations and informing deer and woodland creation and management plans. Video imagery can also be a compelling advocate for implementing deer management plans to a variety of stakeholders including public groups as well as dismissing local assumptions around the species that are situated locally.

After the demonstration, the event ended, and participants returned back to the village hall for tea, coffee, and biscuits and further networking opportunities. The day provided considerable food for thought with attendees stayed until nearly 5pm to continue conversations.

Overall, the event appeared to be very successful in improving awareness of the impact of and innovative tools and methods to manage deer. In the lead up to the event tickets sold out and a waiting list established. One attendee even received a 4am wake up call to attend at the last minute! Feedback from participants on the day was very positive and touched on the range and expertise of the speakers, and topics of the day.

The point was made that the crux of the matter is that we must increase deer management activities to see an impact, and this has remained the same for decades. However, the nuances of the barriers to undertaking sustainable, ethical deer management were touched on throughout the day by a range of stakeholders. Discussion topics included the need for stable local markets, improved collaboration and communication throughout the whole value chain, the challenge of public perception, stalking rights and accessibility, changing business models between land managers and stalkers, and the challenge of working at a landscape scale.

It is clear that we are in an evolving landscape when it comes to deer management whilst some problems remain the same, there is an increasing number of tools and support available for landowners and managers to undertake deer management. A number of groups and individuals are driving forwards the matterbut there appears to be an opportunity for greater collaboration and a champion to create a step change within this area for a variety of reasons.

Many thanks must go to the speakers at the event, Arman Siddiqui, Oliver Smith, Tom Lawson, SJ Hunt, and Amy Gresham for contributing their time and expertise to proceedings. Particular mention and thanks also goesto Andrew Paul, and Forestry England for hosting the afternoon and guiding attendees in looking at the impacts of deer and other animals in Hamsterley Forest. Gratitude is also given to the Forestry Commission for their support in funding the Northwoods Innovation Programme. Well done to the Northwoods team, particularly Martha, for organising and running a successful day.

  • Country Food Trust
  • A range of Forestry Commission templates to support the creation of deer management plan, survey, and impact assessment templates
  • Presentations from the day
  • WildTrackPro Footage of Thermal Survey:


Original event details

Deer can have a significant impact on new and existing woodlands and can prevent the natural regeneration of woodlands, reduce the value of timber crops, and increase the susceptibility of woodlands to pests, diseases, and climate change.

This Northwoods event will blend presentations with a site visit to look at the impact of Deer on woodlands, the support available to help woodland owners and stewards manage this, and discuss innovative methods to assess and reduce the effect of deer on woodlands.


9:15-9:45 Event registration at Hamsterley Village Hall

9:45-10:00 Introduction to the Event and Northwoods Innovation Programme

10:00 -11:00 Presentation – Awareness and Impact of Deer on Woodlands and Available Support - Arman Siddiqui (Deer Officer, Forestry Commission)

11:00-11:15 Tea and coffee break

11:15-12:15 Deer Management Innovation Sprint – A summary of innovative methods to assess, manage, and fund deer management including presentations from Wild Track Pro, Country Food Trust and iDeer

12:15-13:00 Lunch - provided by Country Food Trust: Wild Venison Bolognese – a rich and tasty venison ragu

13:00-13:30 Travel to Hamsterley Forest to look at the impact of deer in woodlands

13:30-14:30 – Identifying and inspecting the impact of deer on woodlands with Arman Siddiqui (Deer Officer, Forestry Commission)

14:30-15:30 Demonstration - Using thermal imaging equipment for surveying deer populations - Wild Track Pro

15:30-16:00 Travel back to Hamsterley Village Hall and event end.

The event is aimed at woodland owners, estate and land managers, and anyone interested in increasing their knowledge of the impacts of deer on woodlands and innovative tools to assess and manage these.

The event will feature:

Wild Track Pro

Wild Track Pro have developed a data recording system for recording deer and squirrel numbers which can assist estate and forest managers, stalkers and gamekeepers to gather useful data on local populations and for reporting against grant funding requirements including CS Higher Tier obligations, notably the WS1 and WS3 deer and squirrel supplements.

Country Food Trust

A charity that raises funds and produces high protein ready meals using game for those in need. Meals are distributed to alleviate food poverty to foodbanks, charities and community kitchens across the UK.

The Wild Venison Project

The Wild Venison Project was launched this year by renowned restaurateur, chef and conservationist Mike Robinson and the Country Food Trust. The project aims to double the amount of wild venison used in English restaurants and donate wild venison to those in fuel poverty and children in schools.

As part of the funding requirements for this event, Northwoods will be taking photographs for future project promotion and case studies. If you are not happy for your image to be used please indicate this on the event booking form and inform Northwoods staff on the day.

Please note

The event will be outside and thus requires suitable outdoor clothing and shoes appropriate to the weather and season.

If you have any questions please get in touch with us at

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