The changes to occupiers’ rights to cull out of season and night shooting authorisations made in the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011, which amended the Deer (Scotland) Act 1996, will come into force on 1 Aril 2012.
Owner and occupier rights in Closed Season
From 1 April 2012 to cull any deer out of season requires authorisation (a licence) from SNH. The previous automatic right for occupiers to cull deer out of season to prevent damage to agricultural land and in enclosed woodland will be removed. Such culling will still be possible but only under licence from SNH. To avoid the need for a specific licence to be applied for by each owner or occupier in every case, it is SNH’s intention to issue a general licence to owners and occupiers to cull deer for the purpose of preventing damage to improved agricultural land and enclosed woodland. This will cover the period from 1st April 2012 to 31st March 2013. Those operating under a general authorisation must have read and understood the general authorisation and carry out any control in accordance with the conditions listed on the authorisation. SNH’s authorisation will apply where no other means of control which might reasonably be adopted in the circumstances would be adequate.
Generally close season owner/occupier licences will only be granted to persons who are approved as fit and competent persons but there is an exception to this for licences relating to improved farmland and enclosed woodland where the occupier and those they authorise (owner, employee of owner, employee of occupier or person normally resident) do not need to be approved as fit and competent to benefit from the licence. SNH has indicated that the general licence will not allow the culling of female deer of any species between the period of the 1st April to the 31st August. That will still require a specific licence. SNH has also stated that returns of deer culled under the general licence will be sought from annual cull returns and it will be a condition of the licence that individuals share cull information with the owner of the land or SNH when requested.
Occupiers’ rights in open season
The right for the occupier to cull deer to prevent damage during the season in enclosed woodland and on improved agricultural land remains but the threshold to allow action has been reduced from “serious damage” to “damage”.
Night shooting of deer is generally prohibited, but SNH can authorise an occupier to cull deer on agricultural land or woodland at night where it is satisfied that no other means of control which might reasonably be adopted would be adequate and that the cull is necessary to prevent serious damage to specific agricultural activity or woodland. SNH may now also authorise night shooting in the interests of public safety for example to reduce risk of deer vehicle collisions. SNH states that any application for such an authorisation must detail why daylight/in season/out of season control have not been sufficient to address the problem.
Application forms are available from the SNH website: