As a member of the British Deer Parks and Farms Association, Woburn Deer Park takes deer welfare very seriously. Deer populations are actively managed to keep herds at a sustainable size.
If animals were not removed, food would become scarce and more animals would ultimately suffer. Without population control there would be other welfare issues such as low body fat, malnutrition and high incidence of death from exposure to cold in winter. Attempting to maintain too many deer within a restricted park area would soon lead to a build-up of parasites and other pathogens causing disease in the deer.
Herd numbers within the park are closely monitored with the cull planned in advance by trained professionals. The annual cull ensures there is a sustainable population and aims to help improve genetic diversity within the herds.
Woburn Deer Park does not administer contraceptives to deer through feed or injections. There are no contraceptives licensed for use in free-living deer in the UK.
Current oral contraceptives, similar to those used by humans, cannot be given to wild animals because other animals picking on leftovers of deer feed would be adversely affected, and droppings and urine from the deer would contaminate the habitat. Hormonal contraceptives would also interfere with antler growth and shedding; it would be impossible to feed such contraceptives only to the females and prevent the male deer consuming them.
Non hormonal immunocontraceptives can be used on some zoo animals and have been used on moorland ponies in the UK, but they must be injected.
Darting deer with contraceptives is not an option, as it's impossible to identify individual animals to ensure single dosing.
In consultation with our veterinary advisor, however, we annually monitor the worldwide development of technology to limit deer populations and will continue to keep our policies for the management of deer under review.
Where the opportunity arises to move deer to other deer parks we do so. This opportunity is rare given that wild populations of all species of deer are increasing nationally.
The British Deer Society and the Deer Initiative of England and Wales fully endorse humane culling as best practice in deer herd management and Woburn Deer Park is an expert manager of enclosed wild deer herds with an outstanding record in deer conservation. The deer in Woburn Deer Park are under veterinary supervision and all aspects of their welfare are monitored regularly.