Populations of wild deer on the Isle of Wight have fluctuated since their re-appearance there after the end of the last ice age, with an apparent decline at the end of the 18th century leading to their probable disappearance around the middle of the 19th century.
Wild deer began to re-establish during the second half of the 20th century, with both Roe and Muntjac being recorded in the 1970s. The former almost certainly swam from the mainland, Roe along with other deer species are occasionally seen swimming in the Solent and Southampton Water, and are not kept in captivity on the island. The Muntjac may have escaped from a tourist attraction which kept that particular species at that time, although others may have subsequently swum across too. By the 1990s there was a small herd of Fallow that were observed in Firestone Copse and on Lynnbottom Tip, whilst further to the west near to Calbourne Red deer were to be found. Red deer were farmed at various locations on the island during the last few years of the 20th century whilst Red deer, Fallow deer and Muntjac deer were kept at some tourist attractions but all of these establishments had closed by around 2000. Captive populations of both Red and Fallow deer are still to be found in deer parks on the island today.
During the 21st century the presence of Red, Fallow, Roe and Muntjac have been recorded in the wild, with a new species, Sika, being noted in 2017. Again Sika deer do not appear to have been kept in captivity on the island but there are strong populations of this species resident in the woodlands around the Beaulieu river, just a few miles away across the Solent. Sika deer are renowned for their swimming abilities which enabled them to colonise the Arne Peninsular in Dorset after their release on Brownsea Island in Poole harbour.
Muntjac deer appear to be the most widespread species, despite their concerns to the contrary the public authorities have acknowledged that none of these deer are actually causing any environmental problems and although not numerous, wild deer continue to enrich the island’s woodland biodiversity.
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Isle of Wight Deer Conservation
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