HUNDREDS of people have signed a petition against plans to cull deer in a popular Leigh park.
Jim Knott, from Westcliff, launched the campaign after Stephen Aylen, who represents the Belfairs ward on Southend Council, said he wants muntjac deer in Belfairs Wood culled.
As the Echo reported last week, Mr Aylen claims the deer are damaging tree bark in the nature reserve.
Mr Knott, 24, walks his dog in Belfairs Woods and spent a lot of time there while he was growing up.
He said: “After reading about Mr Aylen’s proposal to kill the wild deer living in Belfairs woods, I felt compelled to take action as we should be embracing our local wildlife, not destroying it.
“Mr Aylen is unhappy that some of the trees are losing their bark, but this seems trivial at best, and certainly no reason to start slaughtering animals.
“I have started a petition which calls for Southend council to reject Mr Aylen’s proposal and it has amassed over 400 signatures in just three days, so there are clearly many other locals who feel the same.
“Our message to the council is simple: We will not condone a cull of deer in the woodland and, as our elected representatives, we expect you to act accordingly.
“I also call for complete transparency from the council’s biodiversity and environmental awareness working party during this process so we are kept well informed of the facts and decisions surrounding the issue.”
Muntjac are considered an invasive species by many conservationists due to their prolific mating and destructive effect on other wildlife.
They have been in Belfairs woods since the Eighties.
After hearing about the petition Mr Aylen was unrepentant about his calls for a cull of deer and said it might even be extended to squirrels.
He said: “This has certainly stirred a lot of emotion. A lot of people are now aware of the problem and the publicity has prompted a meeting of the council’s bio diversity sub committee which will invite experts to identify the problem and tell us how it can be solved.
“Is it deer or is squirrels causing the problem? We have a squirrel problem and children being bitten by squirrels in the park.”
Mr Aylen said he would back a cull of squirrels if they turn out to be the culprits behind the tree damage.
He said: “If the biodiversity recommends the cull it would be wrong not to back it because they are the people that will tell us how to deal with the problem.”
To read more, or sign the petition, go to https://www.change.org/p/southend-council-dismiss-stephen-aylen-s-proposal-to-cull-wild-deer-living-in-belfairs-woods
SOUTHEND Council has said it has no plans to carry out a cull of deer.
Graham Longley, councillor responsible for parks, said: “We have no plans to introduce a cull at Belfairs Park or the adjoining site of special scientific interest.
“Our deer numbers are quite low and a cull has not been considered in the past, and there are no plans for one now, or in the future. However, officers have been asked to look at the level of any damage and consider if deterrents need to be put in place.
SIGN ECHO'S ONLINE POLL
THE Echo is running an online poll to gauge feelings on Stephen Aylen’s call to cull deer.
It ends on July 16 shows 22 per cent, 116 voters are for the cull and 78 per cent, 402 voters are against it. To take part, click here