Deer sit in the snow in Richmond Park in London, January 18, 2013. Credit: Reuters/Andrew Winning

(Reuters) – Current efforts to control Britain's increasing deer numbers are not enough to stop populations spreading out of control, research by the University of East Anglia showed on Thursday.

There are now more deer in Britain than at any time since the Ice Age, the scientists said.

Without natural predators, populations are continuing to rise, causing a serious threat to biodiversity. High numbers of deer can threaten woodland birds, carry infections such as Lyme disease, damage crops and cause road traffic accidents.

The research team studied the numbers, sex ratio and fertility of roe and muntjac deer across 234 km sq of forested land and heathland in Breckland, East Anglia, to measure the effectiveness of deer management.

The team found that while deer management appeared to control numbers at a stable level, it was only because thousands of deer are pushed out to the surrounding countryside each year, helping to drive the further spread of the animals.

In the Breckland area studied, 53 percent of muntjac from the estimated population need to be culled and 60 percent of roe deer just to offset reproduction, the scientists said.

These figures exceed previous cull recommendations of 30 percent of muntjac and 20 percent of roe.

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