Red deer surveys

As well as in many other lowland areas across the UK, populations of Red deer have been present in the Broads area for many years.

red deer standing in a body of water

Historically, their population has been relatively low and they have had minimal impact on the landscape. However, since 2005 the number and range of the Red deer has increased across many areas of East Anglia, and the population is now higher and is more widespread than at any time in recent history.

With the support of landowners and the public, we are planning to undertake surveys to quantify Red deer numbers in the Broads area. This will help us to understand their impacts and inform what we should do to control them in the future.

Impacts of deer

Whilst many people are happy to spot deer on their visits to the Broads, the negative impacts from Red deer (Cervus elaphus), Chinese water deer (Hydropotes inermis) and Muntjac deer (Muntiacus reevesi) have reportedly increased. This has resulted in an increasing awareness of the need for a more effective control plan.

Female Red deer

The primary driver behind concerns around deer populations is their appetite. Some species of deer can eat over 7kg of food a day, which is often sourced from woodlands, cereal crops and ornamental gardens.

Deer grazing, or 'browsing' of tree saplings and other young vegetation poses a particular issue in our woodlands where they may eat through significant amounts of low-lying vegetation. This removal of the woodland understory can negatively impact the structure of the landscape and prevent the natural regeneration of our woodlands. Biodiversity impacts of deer grazing may also include a reduction in food sources and a decline in habitats for birds, insects and other mammals.

Deer can also create significant losses for farmers and land owners. They are known to feed heavily on cereal (arable) crops such as wheat, corn and barley, as well as on vegetable crops.

A final consideration is the potential increased likelihood of road traffic accidents and near-misses where areas that have a high population density of deer are intersected by roads and other rights of way.

Deer have no natural predators in the UK and so there are increasing applications to manage deer populations to protect arable crops, woodlands, reed beds, wider biodiversity and road users. Even with this in place the population of deer is continuing to increase in the Broads area.

Proposed Red deer surveys

There has been significant anecdotal and some video evidence provided in the past 24 months of the size of the Red deer population in the Broads area, but no formal landscape scale assessment of numbers nor recorded impacts has occurred.

A drone survey has been commissioned, at no cost to the landowners in the area, which will aim to provide an estimate of the minimum population of Red deer in the Broads area. Please see our PDF map showing a general outline of the survey area we wish to include. If you are a farmer or land manager please read on for information on how you can get involved and support the project.

Who is organising the survey?

A partnership between the Forestry Commission and the Broads Authority is providing the opportunity to undertake night and day time thermal drone counts of the red, muntjac and Chinese water deer populations in the area.

Natural England Assent will be gained to undertake the survey work across protected sites, so that the survey will not adversely affect any of the important wildlife features in the area.

How will the survey take place

We have pencilled in between 12 - 19 February 2024 for the survey, subject to weather. It will occur either at night or early mornings, whilst there is deer movements occurring. Drones will be operated by Ben Harrower Wildlife Consultants. The drones are equipped with high tech thermal and high definition cameras.

Outcomes of the survey

The count will provide the opportunity to map the range of the population, and give overall minimum population sizes.

The survey area that is being proposed will cover the majority of the Red deer range in this part of Norfolk, and will help support the ongoing sustainable management of the deer populations and landscape management objectives in the area. We appreciate that the Red deer in this area may well also move to other parts of Norfolk, and may well be influenced by deer coming in from other areas as well.

Deer impacts assessments will also be collected for arable crops, woodlands and other landscape features in the area.

The information gathered will be provided to landowners to support them with their ongoing landscape management work, to grow crops, enhance woodland condition, and increase the wider biodiversity of the landscapes.

Support the project and have your land included

If you are a land manager and would like to have your land included as part of the survey, please send an email to stating your name and contact details plus a map of the boundary area for your holding.

We will then develop a survey plan and ensure that prior to the surveys occurring you will be contacted again to ensure you are aware of the final timings for the survey.

If you require any further information about the project or have any questions please contact:

Further information

For further information on the impacts of deer please see: