Deer management report not reflective of substantial recent progress

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Press Release

Conflicting evidence on the future of deer management in Scotland should not overshadow the recent progress achieved, Scottish Land & Estates said today. 

The organisation, which represents rural businesses and landowners, said that many of the findings in this week’s Deer Working Group report came in sharp contrast to SNH’s report Assessing Progress in Deer Management - published just two months ago.

Sarah-Jane Laing, Chief Executive of Scottish Land & Estates said:

“Substantial progress has been made in the operation of deer management groups over the past five years, with the sector demonstrating its ability to respond and adapt to new challenges and manage deer in a way that is sustainable and safeguards public interests.

“The Deer Working Group report provides 99 recommendations, a number of which will be welcomed by those involved in managing deer. However, given the substantial nature of the report, further scrutiny will be required over the coming weeks.

“What is clear is the strong focus on drastically reducing the deer population. This conflicts sharply with the SNH report, published just two months ago, which found the red deer population had already dropped considerably to below 10 per sq/km – and around 22% of the population culled annually.

“While deer numbers are important in setting culls it has been accepted by SNH for many years that it is grazing impacts rather than numbers that are critical in setting and meeting habitat objectives. Any discussion on deer numbers and their impact on the environment is therefore likely to be misleading if not considered along with the grazing impacts of other herbivores. The right density is also dependent on pasture availability rather than a strict number applicable across every region.

“The recent SNH publication was an update to a 2016 report and the authors found considerable progress had been made in that three-year period. Despite assertions in the Deer Working Group report that excessive deer densities are inhibiting woodland expansion, peatland protection and restoration, the SNH report acknowledges that deer management groups are already identifying opportunities and making a contribution on these hugely important issues.

“We will carefully examine the evidence contained in the report but would we urge a considered approach that does not lose the substantial benefits that existing deer management provides to rural Scotland.”