A SHARP increase in the deer population in East Lancashire could be putting motorists and the animals at risk on the roads.

Nature experts said deer numbers were on the increase in the area and would continue to rise in the coming years.

The animals have a tendency to make their way on to roads, and just last week a motorist suffered minor injuries in Whalley Road, Billington, after swerving to avoid a deer and in the process hit a lamppost.

Ron Freethy, the Lancashire Telegraph’s nature expert, said: “There is a very rapid increase in deers in East Lancashire and that is going to continue. The more deers there are then the faster their numbers will expand.

“That is causing a problem with poaching, which is also on the increase, and also with a lot more being killed on the roads.

“They do get caught in the headlights of approaching car and their natural instinct is to freeze. The best thing to do if it is a quiet road is to turn headlights down to sidelights and they will quickly clear off.”

Mark Thomas, wildlife officer for Lancashire Constabulary, said: “We do get calls about road traffic collisions involving deer, particularly in the more rural areas.

“If fences or hedges are low or damaged, deer can find their way on to roads. There have been problems on the M65 and at Samlesbury, near Brockholes Brow.

“However, we are now also seeing wild deer in more urban areas as well.”

Sgt Pete Sculpher, of the road policing team, said: “We do receive reports of collisions involving deer, although the number is no higher than expected given the rural makeup of the east of the county.

“Collisions can occur when people swerve to avoid the deer after they dart into the road.

“If a deer is struck, aside from the injuries to the animal, it can also cause substantial damage to a car and potential injuries to the people inside the vehicle.”

A Lancashire Wildlife Trust spokesman said: “We don’t have specific figures on deer population, but on our reserves, we have been seeing healthy numbers of wild deer, particularly at our new Brockholes reserve.

“There has also been a large number of sightings over the last year in built-up places, suggesting that young deer are starting to stray further.

“We do ask that people keep their distance from any that they see, particularly in urban areas, so as not to startle them and risk causing an accident.”