A toxic combination of emptier roads and drivers speeding is causing a rise in fatal deer crashes, an expert has said.

Tony Lowry is chair of UK Deer Track & Recovery, a not-for-profit organisation which monitors levels of wild deers, and has to put down injured animals on Hampshire's roads. 

Tony is regularly called to roads and railway lines in and around the county, where animals have been left suffering when struck by vehicles.

He said that there had been no let up during Covid, with the roads being emptier, but drivers taking advantage.

“The roads were more quiet so there were more deer out,” Tony said, “but there continued to be collisions as people were driving faster on empty roads. Deer are still going to cross roads, like badgers.”

He says that cars lull people into a false sense of security, and that drivers need to pay attention to their surroundings, especially in wooded areas where deer could be.

“People just feel very safe in their tin cars, and the results are horrendous,” Tony said. “There was a chap last year who had a very lucky escape when a deer went through his windscreen and if there’d been a passenger it would have killed them.

“It wrote the car off as the deer went through and ended up in the back of the car. People feel so safe, but when you hit something that is 150 pounds plus at 60mph it’s never going to go well for the deer or the occupants.”

“A lot of animals get hit by cars and we’ve been trying to highlight that,” he said. “We deal with a lot of that and the more people we can make aware the better because there’s so many, and most people have no idea what to do and who to call.”

Tony has been running UKDTA for about six years, and is called in to track deer who have been injured. In some countries, such schemes are government run, but in the UK it is led by independent groups.

“In Denmark, where I come from and learnt my trade, it’s a government run scheme and they can go where they want once they have passed their test with their dogs,” he said. “Here, we can track by the roadside when we know who the landowner is. It’s trespass otherwise, and if you’ve got a rifle on your shoulder it’s armed trespass and that’s much more serious.”

Tony says that hotspots for deer strikes in Hampshire are mainly due to the amount of trees, particularly around the Harewood Forest, New Forest and elsewhere. He says that tree planting in recent years is exacerbating the issue, with trees planted by roads providing shelter for deer who can then be hit by cars.

“Our area is surrounded by woodland and the area’s planning doesn’t help," he said. "We need more trees but they bring more wildlife in contact with the road. There are more people on the roads than ever, there are more deer than before, so they’re going to come in contact.”

Unfortunately, Tony says there are no easy solutions to deer strikes, with fencing along the roads being impractical.

“It’s very difficult to fence,” he said. “On the continent, the motorways are fenced but then it needs to be the whole way along because otherwise the deer get stuck on the wrong side. So fencing isn’t a particularly practical option unless you do the whole lot.

“Certainly, I think planners need to take more consideration of their tree planting, and there also needs to be more signage in hotspots. Drivers also need to stick to the speed limit. If you’re doing 70 or 80 on fast, winding roads then you have no chance if a deer steps out in front of you.”

Tony also wants to raise awareness of what drivers should do if they hit a deer to help end its suffering as soon as possible. He advises to call the police on 101, or 999 if there is an immediate danger to other road users.

He also wants more landowners to get in touch so that he can track deer who manage to struggle onto nearby land. He asks anyone who owns land in Hampshire near roads to contact him at tonylowry123@outlook.com to arrange permission.