Working with Deer

Unfortunately there are very few career opportunities for people who want to work with deer or with other related ungulates. The competition for what few positions are available is extremely intense because of the large number of people who apply for them. Most people who work in some way with deer, do so as a hobby in their spare time, and derive the greater part of their income from other means. However, if you have a very strong interest in this field, it is perhaps normal that you will want to find employment within it. There are a number of possibilities listed below.

Wildlife Warden/Ranger
Wildlife Wardens or rangers help manage and control areas of wildlife interest. They usually work for a local council or one of the government agencies such as English Nature. Although Wildlife wardens do a variety of tasks, and care for a range of wildlife species, if the area where you work contains deer there is a good chance that you will have the possibility to work with deer. Much of the work that a wildlife ranger does is manual and concerned with practical countryside management. Rangers provide access to countryside areas for the general public and help keep wildlife sites in good order. This is a very interesting and rewarding job and competition for positions is severe. Typically candidates are expected to have a BSc and MSc in biology or related areas plus a number of years of practical voluntary experience. Positions can be found on the countryside jobs website.


Another possibility for people interested in deer is to work in one of the research groups that studies deer. These are mostly based in university biology or zoology departments and are involved with studying how deer live and behave. However, competition for positions within these groups is fiercely intense. This is because this is a very interesting area to do research in, the number of positions small and they are well paid (PhD students get about 200 pounds per week).

A PhD advertised by Tim Coulson of Imperial College London on Soay sheep recently received over 400 applications! Realistically you have to have at least 5 years research experience to get to the interview stage for a PhD studentship. Despite a good BSc and MSc in biology, having kept sheep for much of my life, and having worked in research groups for over 2 years I have not yet obtained enough experience to be able to get to the interview stage for a PhD. To improve your chances get as much research experience as possible, try to get something published, and try to gain additional skills such as in statistics or GIS. You have to have experience of doing your own research independently.

One of the most well known groups is the large animal research group (L.A.R.G.) run by Tim Clutton-Brock at Cambridge University. He studies Red deer on the Scottish island of Rum and takes on 2 students each year. Competition is fierce; I have applied 5 out of the last 7 years and have not been successful in getting to the interview stage. Another bad disapointment for me was the PhD on Rum studying Feral Goat behaviour with Robin Dunbar, as I have been interested in goats for much of my life. I continue to apply to Robin Dunbar on a monthly basis or so on the offchance that he gets future funding. This is another strategy I sugest to people wanting a PhD and one I try with some other researchers, maybe they remeber your name from the hundreds of enquiries they get! My PhD track record for ungulate research;

Reason for rejection
2000Tim Clutton-Brock (LARG) Cambridge UniversityRed Deer on RumCan't remember
2001?Macualay InstituteHerbivore grazingNot given
2002Robin Dunbar Liverpool UniversityFeral goat behaviour on RumDespite being able to use the GIS program and SPSS which was required, I did not have enough practical research experience with ungulates- I only had 2 winters experience and he wanted at least 2 years
2002Tim Clutton-BrockRed DeerNot enough experience
2003Galway UniversityRadiotracking of sheep to study movementOnly wanted sombody who already had experience of setting up a radiotracking project with sheep in Ireland. I had only radiotracked in Switzerland and not in Ireland and not with sheep!
2003Tim Clutton-BrockRed DeerNot enough experience
2003Tim Coulson Imperial College LondonSoay SheepWanted someone with good maths only-went to someone who had already done a postgrad degree in maths
2004?Edinbrough Uni?Deer Genetics?
2004Tim Clutton-Brock (LARG) Cambridge UniRed Deer on Rum again!Not enough experience- need 5 years plus
2004/5Macualay InstituteEffect of grazing on grasslandsNot given
2005Tim Clutton-Brock (LARG) CambridgeYou guessed it- Red DeerToo academically weak
2006Tim Clutton.Brock (LARG)Red DeerNot strong enough academically

I am now trying in Germany where I am hoping for more success!

Estate Worker/Gamekeeper

There is the possibility of working as an estate worker or gamekeeper on the estates where deer are kept and shot. Such a job will involve producing habitats in which deer thrive and assisting in the hunting of deer. However, if you have a genuine love for deer you will naturally be reluctant to be involved in their destruction, which such a job almost certainly entails. Control of the deer population is needed in many areas, and is an essential part of deer management. Where deer population are too high the environment suffers and deer begin to starve…Working on an estate will involve not simply controlling the deer population for its own good, but helping hunting of deer for pleasure. The majority of hunters are thoughtful and understanding of the animals they shoot and have a deep love of nature. They understand that deer have to be controlled and try to do so in the most sensitive way. However there is a small minority of hunters who are rather unpleasant, these seem to be ex army types who seem to think because they blow the brains out of something they know more about it than those who don't. They care only for hunting and do not hunt in the best interests of deer. Luckily this is a dying breed as hunting for pleasure is becoming socially unacceptable.

Zoo Work

Another possibility for people interested in working with ungulates is to work in a zoo. Zoos keep a range of interesting ungulate species, most of which are by their nature exotic. Obviously these need to be cared for, and so there is the possibility of working in a zoo as a zookeeper caring for these animals. Zoos also need people to organise conservation, research and education projects on the animals that they keep and this also offers work opportunities. Once again competition for places is fierce.