Natural England - Deer


Advice, licensing and legislation relating to deer.

Fallow deer buck
Fallow deer buck © Natural England

Legal protection

Under the Deer Act 1991external link (as amended), all wild deer with the exception of Muntjac (Muntiacus reevesi) are protected by a close seasonexternal link with a common start date of 1 April for female deer. The Regulatory Reform (Deer) (England and Wales) Order 2007external link amended the original Act improved deer welfare in a number of ways and introduced new licensing provisions. Further details of this amendment are provided in the section on Deer consultation and Regulatory Reform Order below.

Shooting deer in the close season or at night

Section 7 Deer Act 1991external link provides a so-called "farmers defence" whereby authorised persons may, in certain circumstances shoot deer if they are causing damage in the close season (see the Act for details of the types of situations covered). The amendments to the Deer Act to allow individuals to apply for licences for shooting deer during the close season to prevent the deterioration of natural heritage or to preserve public health and safety. To apply see Licences and how to apply below.

Under Section 3 Deer Act 1991external link it is an offence to kill or take deer at night. The 2007 amendments allow individuals to apply for licences for shooting deer at night where it is not possible to effectively control deer by other means. To apply for a licence see Licences and how to apply below.

Advice and leaflets

Advice leafletSummaryAudience
Deer: problems in urban and suburban areasexternal link - TIN044Primarily advice on prevention of damage caused by roe, fallow and muntjac to gardens.Householders
Recommendations for fallow, roe,and muntjac fencing: new proposals for temporary and reusable fencingexternal link - FCPN009 (Forestry Commisson)Details of specifications and materials for more cost-effective fencing for fallow, roe and muntjac.Land managers, farmers, foresters
Managing deer in the countrysideexternal link - FCPN0006 (Forestry Commission)Advice for non-specialists on finding out if deer are present, which species, if damage has been caused, solutions and where to go for more advice.Land managers, farmers, foresters
Impact of deer on woodland biodiversityexternal link - FCIN036 (Forestry Commission)Guidance on impacts of deer on vegetation and recommendations for establishing effective deer management and tree protection measures.Land managers, farmers, foresters
Deer Initiative Best Practice Guidesexternal link  (The Deer Initiative)A comprehensive range of guides on all aspects or wild deer management.Land managers, farmers, foresters

Specific licensing guidance is included below in 'Licences and how to apply' next to the relevant application form.

To find out more about the different deer species found in the UK visit The Deer Initiativeexternal link or Mammal Societyexternal link.

Deer Management Groups

The best long-term solution to reduce the damage caused by deer is to achieve an adequate cull each year and so reduce the local deer population. This is best achieved through a wider, co-ordinated cull undertaken by a local Deer Management Group (DMG) rather than on an ad-hoc basis by individuals.

Further details on DMGs can be found in the Deer Initiative's Best Practice Guide on Deer Management Groupsexternal link. However, the legislation makes provisions for actions that can be taken in exceptional circumstances where problems cannot readily be resolved through normal deer management.

Licences and how to apply

See our licences page for summary information on: Who needs a licence, what types there are and how long they take to obtain. Licences and advice are provided free of charge (some exceptions).

Application form/example caseGuidanceReport/renewal
Deer - for science, education and for relocation: WML-A32: (431kb)pdf document (e.g. trapping and radio-collaring deer for behavioural study)
Template for References: (74kb)word document
Guidance on references for applicants: (47kb)pdf documentReport: (105kb)word document
Deer - for shooting deer during the close season or at night for certain, specified purposes: WML-A16: (431kb)pdf document (e.g. health and safety issue)Report provided with licence

Enforcement and inspection

Please see our main enforcement and inspection page for more information.

Contact us

Please contact Customer Services Wildlife Licensing for further information and guidance.

Further information on deer

Deer consultation and action plan

An action plan The sustainable management of wild deer populations in England: (359kb)pdf document was published following the Defra and Forestry Commission public consultation in 2004.

In 2006 Defra held a public consultation on proposed changes to the Deer Act (1991) to improve deer management and welfare. The proposals from the consultation formed the basis of the Regulatory Reform (Deer) (England and Wales) Order 2007 . This increased the range of tools available to deer managers and will enhance deer welfare. The Order amended the Deer Act as follows:

  1. Allow the use of 0.22 centre fire rifles for shooting smaller species of deer (namely muntjac & Chinese water deer);
  2. Allow any reasonable means of humanely dispatching deer that are suffering due to illness or disease;
  3. Allow dependent deer to be taken or killed if they have been, or are about to be, deprived of their mother, at any time of the year;
  4. Enable licensed killing or taking of deer during the close season to prevent deterioration of the natural heritage or to preserve public health and safety;
  5. Enable licensed killing or taking of deer at night to prevent deterioration of the natural heritage, to preserve public health and safety or to prevent serious damage to property.
  6. Shorten the close season for all female deer to allow better control of population numbers by moving the commencement date to 1st April.
  7. Introduce close seasons for Chinese water deer from 1st April to 31st October inclusive and for red/sika hybrids the same as the parent species. To maintain protection for female Chinese water deer the close season will also apply to males as it is difficult to distinguish between the two sexes.
  8. Amend the meaning of mechanically propelled vehicle in the Deer Act to permit discharging of firearms or projecting missiles from a mechanically propelled vehicle that is stationary and the engine is not running.

Road traffic accidents

There are an estimated 30,000 - 50,000 vehicle collisions involving deer annually in the UK. These result in 10-20 human fatalities. The National Deer-Vehicle Collisions Projectexternal link is collecting records of road traffic accidents involving deer.