Residential property
07 Feb 2020 News

Wild Deer in Scotland- Deer Working Group Report 2020 – Fewer Deer Wanted.

There have been two recent significant reports on deer in Scotland, one by SNH (who took over the functions of the old Deer Commission for Scotland) in 2019 and the new “Report of the Deer Working Group on the Management of Wild Deer in Scotland” issued in January ‘20.

The SNH Report, which is shorter and of a lesser intended scope states, broadly speaking, that there had been a stable deer population since about 2000, with the management of that population, guided by the Deer Code and as encouraged by SNH, having an increasing effect on the population and the statutory aims of: Environmental Protection, Sustainable Economic Development, Social Wellbeing and Deer Welfare. It did indicate that further action was required in several areas, both of activity and geographically.

The DWG Report by contrast, seeks to take a much deeper and wider view, and considers a longer timeframe. It also focusses on the increased pressure for environmental improvement and the more recent concerns over climate change. The DWG Report stresses the increase in numbers of all deer species since World War II, from estimates of around 150,000 in the 1950s to somewhere between 750,000 and 1,000,000 at present. It also mentions deer in the Lowlands as an increasing issue, and the ‘several thousand’ killed annually on the roads.

Shortly put, the conclusion of the DWG Report is that there should be fewer wild deer. It points to the increasing number of collisions with vehicles and the increasing number of deer in lowland Scotland. It also points to the slow improvements in the condition of protected sites such as SSSI’s. It wants SNH to focus on getting better information and statistics, and that wild deer should be seen as a resource for the country at large.

There is an extensive list of recommendations. These include ending the use of lead bullets, but permitting increased use of night sights, and changing the closed seasons, in particular so that there would be no closed season for stags at all. It encourages the creation of a register of people “competent to shoot deer”. One of the major concerns for farmers and other landowners is damage by deer. It indicates clearly that SNH should be more prepared to intervene where there is an unacceptable level of damage. It also proposes that it should no longer be permissible to use muirburn to encourage wild deer. Generally speaking, it recommends strong action against the spread of Sika and Fallow deer and the prevention of any further spread. Muntjac deer numbers must also to be reduced and the species not kept in captivity without some strong reason.

SNH were also encouraged to adopt a more flexible approach to encouraging collaboration for deer management purposes. It considers that 10 deer per square kilometre should, over the whole range, be taken as an upper limit for an acceptable density.

It remains to be seen whether and how far the Scottish Government will take forward the recommendations. Many of these would involve changes to the Deer (Scotland) Act 1996, although others involve merely a change of practice by SNH. Whatever the impact of deer on any part of Scotland, the Report clearly shows a trend to seek to move further and faster to control such impacts largely by reducing deer numbers and density.

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