The British Deer Society (BDS) promotes deer education, research and management best practice to ensure a healthy and sustainable deer population in balance with the environment; a key feature of the biodiversity of the UK landscape.
We aim to be the go-to place for objective and unbiased information on the biology of deer and methods of deer management, humane treatment and control.
What BDS Do
Science and Research
BDS commissions, funds and supports research projects which improve our understanding of the biology of deer and their interactions with their environment.
Advice and Education
BDS provides a range of opportunities, advice and resources for people to discover more about deer in the UK, to encourage an understanding and appreciation of them and their place within our natural landscape.
BDS remains at the forefront of training deer related initiatives, course development and course delivery throughout Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Advocacy & Consultation
BDS advise government and key public bodies on deer-related issues – when deer become the subject of public policy, the Society ensures that politicians and decision makers have an evidence base founded on practical and factual advice
Campaign & Lobby
BDS campaign on a range of deer sustainability issues working closely with other countryside and animal welfare organisations. In addition, we lobby for a thriving and sustainable wild deer population.
How We Work
The British Deer Society is a charity registered in England & Wales (no. 1069663) and in Scotland (no. SCO37817) and is based in Fordingbridge in Hampshire.
The Patron of the Society is HRH The Prince of Wales and the Society President is Lord Andrew Hay.
The Society includes sixteen regional branches across the UK which provide a lively forum for those who are interested in deer, offering local events and activities for deer enthusiasts of all ages.
We have over 6,000 members and many more supporters and employ a team of full-time staff mostly based in our Headquarters. Our work is guided by a dedicated Board of Trustees/Directors, who bring a wide range of deer-related, scientific and business expertise to the governance of the charity, and is directed by a management team made up of professional staff and Trustees.
The Board meets four times each year to set and direct policy. Between meetings the Board works by email, delegating some work to specific groups such as finance, research, education, and training.
The Management Team is led by the General Manager and regular meetings are held throughout the year to plan and deliver Society work.
Current Management Team
- Professor Rory Putman, Society Chairman
- John Bruce, Scottish Area Council Chairman
- Dominic Griffith, Vice Chairman
- Sarah Gubbins, Treasurer and Financial Director
- Sarah Stride, General Manager and Company Secretary
- Chris Brooks, Head of Training Development
- Glyn Ingram, Deer Officer
- Morris Charlton, England, Wales & Northern Ireland Area Chairman
- Phillip Rosslee, Finance Officer
- Laura McMahon, Marketing Manager
Individual Trustee/Directors attend on occasion as ex officio members and contribute specialist input as necessary.
The first half of the 20th century was a dark time for British deer. Two world wars had resulted in many ancient deer parks being closed. Some parks had been converted to farmland for much needed food production, while others had been turned into military camps. Others simply fell into neglect as there were no staff to keep walls and fences in good repair. In some places all the deer were shot, while others escaped to establish wild populations in the nearby area.
These populations caused damage to farm and forest crops leading to calls for their destruction. At this time lowland Britain had no humane established methods for deer control meaning often snares and shotguns were being used. Many deer died horrible deaths during this period. In addition, there were no legal close times or close seasons when deer could not be killed.
In the absence of a national organisation people concerned about the situation of British deer began to seek out other like minded individuals. In 1950 Country Life magazine published an appeal by Gerald Johnstone for information on deer distribution in Britian as part of a study he was conducting.
Peter Carne responded and was invited to assist further with the study. At the same time Jim Taylor Page was conducting his own study related to the roe deer rut and began exchanging letters with Peter.
The Deer Group was founded in 1953 with Jim Taylor Page (JTP) as its secretary. With the foundation of The Mammal Society in 1954, it made sense for the deer group to join forces with the society while still remaining autonomous.
A key feature of the deer group was its newsletter typed regularly by JTP and duplicated for distribution. At this time there was little information and literature about deer available so it was agreed that the group would produce a handbook on British deer. JTP and eight other members egarly began work on “A Field Guide to British Deer” with the support of The Mammal Society.
This project brought together for the first time Jack Chard, Forestry Commission Conservator for North West England and Major Herbert Fooks (HF) who had been in charge of deer management in the British controlled zone of West Germany. This lead to Herbert Fooks being appointed the first ever Forestry Commission Game Warden. HF took responsibility for training Commission staff in how to control deer selectively during specified open seasons by species and sex.
“A Field Guide to British Deer” was published in 1957 and proved an instant success. Illustrations and many useful factual details were contributed by Victor Ross. Victor was a German Jewish political refugee who brought deep knowledge of enlighted European deer management.
The deer group worked hard at this time to raise awareness of the need for deer legislation. The first Deer (Scotland) Act reached the Statute Book in 1959 leading to the creation of the Red Deer Commission to monitor red deer management and provide help. With the 1960’s fast approaching the group continued pressure for a similar bill for England and Wales.
The Mammal Society had a purely scientific remit and by 1962 it was felt the deer group’s focus on deer management legislation was incompatible with its ethos. It was therefore agreed after some discussion and a vote by deer group members that the group would become independent and be renamed the British Deer Society (BDS). Happily many BDS members also retained their membership of the Mammal Society and BDS continues to retain a close relationship with them down to the present day.
BDS was officially launched at an Inauguration Day at Woburn Abbey on the 24th February 1963. The first chairman was Richard Fitter who inducted the Earl of Lonsdale as the Societies first president. Jim Taylor Page was Hon. Secretary, and John Hepper Hon. Treasurer. The first committee meeting also took place at Woburn in late June 1963.
The first official BDS newsletter followed soon after in July 1963 and on the 31st July 1963 The Deer (England and Wales) Act, 1963, received Royal Assent. At the celebration that followed Jasper More MP paid tribute to the pioneering work of the BDS and it members to bring about essential change in deer management.
Sadly that year the Society lost two of its founding members Victor Ross who died from heart disease and Vincent Balfour-Browne. (The Balfour-Browne Trophy is an annual award given alternately by The British Deer Society and Forestry Commission to an individual who has contributed towards better management of deer within the UK.)
In January 1964 Sir Dudley Forwood Bt. and John Willett were elected as Joint Vice Chairmen at the Societies AGM, held on 15 February 1964 at London’s Regents Park Zoo.
The BDS Scottish Branch was inaugurated over the Easter weekend of 1965, with Lt. Col. Patrick Grant of the Red Deer Commission elected as Scottish Branch Chairman and George Logan as Hon. Secretary.
Midlands, Wessex and South West England branches followed in June, July and October of 1966. East Anglia, Northumberland and Durham (later to be renamed North East England), and North West England branches quickly followed the same year. South East England branch followed in June 1967 and Yorkshire in October 1967.
The first edition of Deer arrived in November 1966 to replace Deer News.
In 1970 the Earl of Lonsdale retired as the Societies President and was succeeded by Viscount Ridley. His legacy was the Lonsdale Trust set up to sponsor developments in the educational field.