A deer city

We’re used to seeing foxes and badgers in Sheffield, but sightings of deer in the city are becoming increasingly common.

And we’re not just talking about in the outer suburbs, where the boundary between the countryside and housing has become blurred.

According to Ian Rotherham, Professor of Environmental Geography at Sheffield Hallam University, who has studied populations of deer in the UK since the 1980s, deer are now regular visitors.

“Red deer are established to the west and south-west of Sheffield with a population centred on Big Moor, but now ranging in all directions from there. In the west and north-west, the populations are joining long-standing feral herds around Wharncliffe and Bitholmes with individuals now recorded from Rivelin and Strines.

“Roe deer colonised Sheffield originally from the east and north-east, but now also from the south-west. The population is now well-established in the heart of the urban catchment, with regular sightings, for example, in Crookes, Nether Edge and Sharrow.”

Visitors to the Sheffield General Cemetery, a stones-throw from busy Ecclesall Road, have also reported roe deer, and last August one was found dead in Endcliffe Park.

Muntjac was first recorded in Sheffield during the early 1990s with individual sightings in the Moss Valley.

“Since then there has been progressive movement into the city with recorded sightings in Woodseats, Heeley, Gleadless, Norton, Nether Edge, Sharrow, Parkwood Springs and Queen’s Road.”

The deer population in the UK is at the highest it has been for at least 1,000 years, at around two million.

There are many reasons for this: since wolves, lynx and bears became extinct hundreds of years ago, deer have had no predators to contend with.

They, along with other wildlife, have also benefited from other factors including milder winters, increased woodland cover in some areas and changes in farming such as the planting of winter crops.

“The urban area offers huge possibilities in terms of food,” says Ian Rotherham.

“If you’re a muntjac getting into an allotment or garden, who knows what’s on offer for you? It’s easy pickings.”

Deer are now making their homes in urban woodlands and near rivers, which provide habitats, cover and safe corridors to allow them to find food and breeding opportunities, making Sheffield, with its five rivers, the perfect place.