Where Have All the Red Deer Gone?

Posted: October 29th 2018

Where Have All the Red Deer Gone?

Lord Leicester explains the reasons behind the decision to sell the Holkham herd of Red Deer.

In March and April this year we sold our herd of 55 Red Deer to Julian Stoyel of Red Oak Deer. Julian was at Holkham for three years from 2004 to 2007 as our first full time deer manager before he went to manage the deer herd at Houghton Hall.

It had been my decision in 2007, the year I took over from my father, to introduce them into the 900 acre Holkham deer park. Julian had come from Woburn, arguably the most famous deer park in England with the greatest blood lines. He managed to source 20 Red Deer from there. They were magnificent beasts and did very well on our rich lowland grass.

However it was, perhaps, the first of my decisions of which my father disapproved. There were not very many, I hasten to add! From his stalking expeditions in the highlands of Scotland he had a more romantic view of the ‘Monarch of the Glen’. He felt such a fine beast was out of scale in an English park.

So Dad will be pleased they are no longer at Holkham. Magnificent though they are, my reasons to sell them were twofold: from a forestry point of view, being a much larger animal they were able to reach over our galvanised steel and even older cast iron tree guards (made to protect against our Fallow Deer) and nip the tops off young park trees. They were also more aggressive on the trees, often rubbing the protective bark off the trees and damaging them.

From a safety standpoint, with our ever increasing number of visitors, especially those visiting during the autumn when the rut is in full flow, I could not risk a testosterone charged young stag attacking a walker or cyclist. There have been cases of this in other parts of the country.

The Red Deer rutting.The deep bellows of the stags.

I will miss the deep bellows of the rutting stags, but already, I sense our visitors do not miss them. I’ve seen literally hundreds of visitors gazing in awe at our Fallow Deer. Indeed they have more right to be here having inhabited the park for well over two hundred years.

Holkham's herd of Fallow Deer.
Holkham’s herd of Fallow Deer.

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