Mystery as deer spotted swimming on headland ’12 miles from home’ puzzles locals

The Sika deer- which is not native to the UK and are known to be good swimmers – was snapped on September 26 wandering past the Mudeford Spit beach huts in Bournemouth

A deer seen swimming 12 miles away from the nearest known herd has sparked confusion among locals.

The Sika deer was snapped on September 26 wandering past the Mudeford Spit beach huts in Bournemouth.

Sika are a non-native species from Asia and can swim considerable distances, according to the Dorset Wildlife Trust.

A Trust spokesperson told DorsetLive : “They are found all around Poole harbour. They will follow any green space, and sometimes even roads, to move through the habitat.”

Resident Irene Stephens snapped pictures of the deer as she couldn’t believe her eyes. She says it “was not a regular sight”.

The headland, which is only accessible via water or via a pedestrianised headland walkway, is over 12 miles from the herds known to exist in Poole Harbour.

The non-native species were introduced to Brownsea Island in 1896 date but, being such good swimmers, soon colonised surrounding areas of the harbour in their search for the best food.

Hengistbury Head’s National Coastwatch Association team had seen a picture of the deer on top of the headland the day prior.

The team said: “September is really bringing us some special treats. First dolphins, then spectacular sunrises and now …. deer! This little guy wandered past the Lookout just after 10:00 this morning and stuck to the path all the way down to the viewing area over the beach huts.

“Obviously taking the opportunity to explore a little now the hordes have left. A first for us and a great capture by Watchkeeper Peter.

“And no – I’m not going to attempt to identify the species!”

Dorset Wildlife Trust also shared a warning to individuals and dog owners approaching the wild animals in the area.

A spokesperson said: “If you see deer, or any other wildlife on the beach, please watch from a distance and try to let wild animals continue behaving naturally.

“Keep quiet and move slowly and try to avoid making the animal flee as this uses precious energy reserves. If the animal looks up at you, changes behaviour or runs away, this indicates disturbance. If this happens, the best thing is to move away slowly and quietly to give the animal more space.

“If you have a dog with you, firstly make sure dogs are allowed on that particular part of the beach and at that time of year. Please keep dogs under control at all times so as not to disturb wildlife including shoreline birds.

“With a few simple steps like these, people, pets and wildlife can all use our outdoor spaces safely and comfortably.”

Some commenting on Irene’s photos believe that the deer is from the Stanpit marshland on the other side of the harbour.

A spokesperson for Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council stated: “The deer will access the site probably by swimming across the harbour/river. Although unusual, this does happen sometimes.

“If seen they just need to be left alone and given plenty of space and allowed to go about their day, making sure dogs are on leads.

“As with most wildlife if left in peace nothing else is required from us.”

Sika deer were first released into woodland in Dorset and Hampshire in the 1960s in order to be hunted. Since then, the canny swimmers have populated virile greenspaces in the area.

The Christchurch Harbour Ornithological Group who operate across Stanpit Marsh and headland recorded this September sighting as a first for them and so too.

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