Cull could wipe out ancient deer herd in Ashridge, say campaigners

Baby deer
Baby deer

Ashridge Estate bosses have denied they plan to kill more than three quarters of an ancient deer herd.

But the park, run by National Trust, would not state how many deer were set to be culled starting this Wednesday (October 31).

Campaigners say the ‘original’ herd, which dates back to 1748, are expected to lose 500 of an estimated 650 animals.

Daphni Astley, from the Save Ashridge Deer (SAD) Campaign, said: “The original herd is now dangerously depleted and so overwhelmed by wild fallow that many believe it is on the verge of being lost forever.

“Despite what they say the current management team do not take account of this exclusive herd’s presence, or its wellbeing and this is causing growing consternation and outrage locally.”

The National Trust at Ashridge Estate brought in new management three years ago including new Trust employees, and contractors.

Daphni added: “The new team’s culling methods over the past three years have not shown any consideration for the original herd.”

Nichole, another member of SAD, says the ancient herd numbered up to 1,600 before the new management arrived in 2015.

She said: “We fear the total loss of this distinctive, historic herd unless we act now and this year’s cull is called off.”

Residents also say the estate has been used for filming a TV show, which has disrupted the deer’s rut.

They added: “We visited the herd’s main rutting field, called Old Park, and were horrified to see a portable toilet block, film crew, lots of disruptive vehicles, and litter.

“The woods should have been alive with rutting activity. But there was none.”

The park refused to acknowledge an ‘ancient’ herd, estimating their deer numbers to be close to 2,000.

And bosses say filming on the 5,000-acre estate would not disrupt the deer rut.

A spokesman said: “Uncontrolled numbers of deer can sadly damage our native woodlands. Culling takes place over a period of four months and will take only enough older animals to keep numbers stable.”

They added: “Filming is an important strand of our conservation income and whenever it takes place our rangers keep an eye to make sure deer aren’t affected.”