The Government has launched a new strategy aimed at controlling exploding numbers of wild deer in the UK.

Experts believe that the population is at its highest for 1,000 years and that numbers have been rising rapidly over the last 40 years.

The new strategy has been launched following a public consultation and sets out how the Forestry Commission, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and English Nature aim to work together to encourage the sustainable management of deer over the next three years.

However, responsibility for actually controlling the deer populations still rests with land owners and deer managers.

Nature Conservation minister Ben Bradshaw launched the strategy, saying; "Wild deer are beautiful animals and an important part of our cultural landscape and natural heritage. With careful and sustainable management, landowners and deer managers will be able to control the impact that the increasing numbers of wild deer are having on our native bio diversity, while conserving and protecting both the countryside and its wildlife, including native deer."

Britain's deer population is made up of six different species, native types such as the red deer and roe deer, as well as species which have been introduced sika, muntjac, chinese water deer and the fallow deer.

More than 160,000 deer are culled each year because they damage crops and conservation areas through grazing or cause traffic accidents.

John Cubby, former head deer stalker for the Forestry Commission in Cumbria, said that the deer population had exploded since the war, when deer were more likely to be able to escape from estates which had become neglected.

Mr Cubby explained that it was vital to control these populations for the good of humans, forests and the deer themselves. But he stressed that culls should be carried out only by experienced and qualified stalkers, equipped with the correct firearms.

"They are beautiful animals and they have a right to live in the countryside but they need to be managed," he said.

"They can cause severe damage to young trees particularly by browsing the shoots on top of the tree or by tearing off the bark, which then allows fungi into the trunk, sending the tree rotten.

"With deer numbers increasing and the amount of traffic on our road system these days, there is a large number of road traffic accidents caused directly by the animals running onto the road or indirectly by people swerving to avoid them. Also if you get too many deer in one place they can eat themselves out of house and home," Mr Cubby added.