How does the law protect deer?

What is the law that governs the protection of deer?

Deer are protected by the Deer Act 1991.

How does the Deer Act 1991 protect deer?

The Deer Act 1991 created the following criminal offences:

Poaching of deer

It is a criminal offence to enter onto land without the consent of the owner or occupier or other lawful authority in search or pursuit of deer with the intention of taking, killing or injuring it.

It is also a criminal offence to intentionally take, kill or injure or to attempt to take, kill or injure deer; or search for or pursue deer with the intention of taking, killing or injuring it; or to remove the carcase of a deer, without the consent of the owner or occupier of the land or other lawful authority.

Where a person is charged with one of these criminal offences they will have a defence if he believed that he would have the consent of the owner or occupier of the land if the owner or occupier knew what he was doing and the circumstances in which he was doing it. It is also a defence where a person has other lawful authority to do it.

Where it is suspected that a person is committing one of these offences they can be required to leave the land immediately and give their full name and address. If they fail to do so they will commit a further criminal offence.

Taking or killing of certain deer in close season

It is a criminal offence to take or intentionally kill certain deer in close season or to attempt to do so. These are as follows:

  • Red deer stags: 1 May to 31 July;
  • Red deer hinds: 1 March to 31 October;
  • Fallow deer bucks: 1 May to 31 July;
  • Fallow deer does: 1 March to 31 October;
  • Roe deer bucks: 1 November to 31 March;
  • Roe deer does: 1 March to 31 October;
  • Sika deer stags: 1 May to 31 July;
  • Sika deer hinds: 1 March to 31 October.

An exception is made for businesses who keep deer in enclosed land for the production of meat or other foodstuffs or skins or other by-products, or as breeding stock. However, such deer have to be conspicuously marked so that they can be identified.

The Secretary of State has the power to make an order adding, varying or by deleting the close seasons specified by the Deer Act 1991.

Taking or killing of deer at night

It is a criminal offence to take or intentionally kill deer between the expiry of the first hour after sunset and the beginning of the last hour before sunrise or to attempt to do so.

Use of prohibited weapons and other articles

It is a criminal offence to set a trap, snare, or poisoned or stupefying bait calculated to cause injury to any deer coming into contact with it or to use one of these methods for the purpose of taking or killing a deer or to attempt to do so.

It is also a criminal offence to use certain firearms or ammunition set out in the act and certain other weapons and articles or to attempt to do so.

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For more information on:

  • What defences are available?
  • What powers does the Deer Act 1991 give to the police?
  • What powers does the Deer Act 1991 give to the Courts?