Red deer are a native species having migrated to Britain from Europe 11,000 years ago. They were used extensively by Mesolithic man as a source of food, skins and tools (bones and antlers). However, the development of agriculture by Neolithic man cleared swathes of forest to make way for fields and this loss of forest encouraged the decline of red deer populations, which became confined to the Scottish Highlands, south-west England and a few other small, scattered populations
The Normans protected red deer in parks and ‘forests’ (often devoid of trees!) for royal hunting, but this protection was lost during the Medieval period causing another decline in numbers in England. Victorian re-introductions of ‘improved’ stock (often inter-bred with larger related species such as wapiti), escapes from deer parks, natural spread, together with an increase in the Highlands and in forest and woodland cover since the early 20th century, mean that red deer are now widely distributed and are expanding in range and number.
While preferring woodland and forest habitats in England and southern Scotland, red deer can adapt to open moor and hills as they have in parts of Scotland and south-west England. Native stock are common in the Scottish Highlands, Dumfriesshire, Lake District, East Anglia and the south-west of England. Feral stock are present in the north of England, north Midlands, East Anglia, the New Forest and Sussex