Apparently trapped deer are a frequent enquiry to our helpdesk. Often the animal is in a car park, cemetery, school field, or similar and the worry is that they can’t get out. There is also often an element of concern that the deer is on their own and in an unsuitable (often urban or suburban) area.
First of all, it’s important to understand that deer in urban and suburban areas is not at all uncommon these days. A combination of loss of rural space and the advantages that living close to people can bring means many of our deer species are regularly found outside of the countryside. That in itself is not a cause for concern. We go into this in more detail in this article – Wildlife in Urban Areas
Secondly, not all deer species live in herds. The ones we most commonly see in towns – Roe and Muntjac – live largely solitary lives except when breeding. So seeing a single deer is also nothing to worry about.
In terms of whether the animal is trapped, usually if they got in they can get out. Deer are extremely agile and can easily hop most fences so, unless the fence height is different from the inside, for example because the terrain slopes, they should be fine. Sometimes they enter the area through a small gap in the fence but then they ‘forget’ where that was and it takes them a few days of exploring the fence line to find it again. As long as there is some greenery in the area, there’s time to let the deer explore, as they’ll have food and get the moisture they need from dew or rain on the plants. In hot dry spells you can leave a container of water out for them.
If they really struggle to find their way out the best solution is to temporarily make a larger gap, for example by removing a fence panel. Ideally do this on the quietest side of the plot away from busy roads. Don’t try to usher the deer out as that may cause them to panic. Just let them find their own way out, probably overnight when the area is quieter.
We are often asked if a rescue can just come and remove the deer. Intervention in these situations is difficult and risky. Catching a healthy, mobile deer is extremely hard, potentially very dangerous for the captors (deer can cause fatal injuries with their antlers, tusks and hooves), and can be fatal for the deer as the stress can cause a phenomenon known as capture myopathy. The only way to do it safely would be for the deer to be shot with a sedative dart but this can only be done by licensed professionals and can still be so stressful that the deer doesn’t survive. It’s much safer for all if the deer finds their own way out.