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Deer Management

Deer management, based on sound ecological principles, is an essential part of managing land in a sustainable way. It is mainly the impact of deer that land managers are concerned with, rather than the actual number of deer. It is important that numbers of deer are not allowed to increase to levels where there is an adverse effect on their welfare or their habitat. Deer belong to no-one and therefore represent a shared resource for the people of Scotland. The right to control and manage deer, however, is held by the owner of the land upon which they cross. Deer range over land ownership boundaries and it is through the Deer Management Groups in the Park that land managers work together to manage the deer collaboratively.

Deer Management Groups

Liaison between neighbours is essential to the efficient implementation of deer management objectives and occurs through local Deer Management Groups (DMGs). These groups provide a forum for explaining deer policy and for considering mutually beneficial co-operation on deer management matters.

The National Park’s aim in working with Deer Management Groups is to achieve the following:

  • A mosaic of deer densities allowing different deer management objectives to be achieved in different parts of the Park
  • A deer management planning process which seeks agreement from all interested parties on what deer densities should be
  • Good communications between all involved in deer management
  • Deer recognised as a valuable asset throughout the Park
  • Deer impacts viewed as being in balance with habitats
  • Deer management carried out to high professional standards and respected by all

Deer fence

In order to achieve all this, we are working with Deer Management Groups in the Park to support the work that they do. The desired outcome is that land managers have the density of deer on their holding that allows them to achieve their land management objectives whilst protecting and enhancing the important habitats found within the National Park.

Deer management is an integral part to delivering the outcomes set out in the National Park Partnership Plan. By supporting Deer Management Groups, we will help to deliver multiple benefits such as improving the condition of our woodlands and uplands, through projects such as our Habitat Impact Assessment monitoring and peatland restoration. It is provides employment in remote communities.

Currently many of our habitats in the National Park are over-grazed by herbivores, both domestic and wild and by working in partnership with other partner agencies, such as SNH, and with land managers we can work to reducing these pressures.

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Deer and the local economy

Deer management is an established way of life in Highland Scotland, which generates income for sporting estates, helps maintain healthy deer populations, contributes to sustainable management of the environment, and supports local employment. The participation of visitors in deer stalking can be a significant part of the income of the estates.

The Deer Commission for Scotland estimates there are around 320 permanent and 460 part time stalkers directly employed in open hill red deer management, as well as 109 Forestry Commission rangers. There are also private forestry company stalkers and others involved in managing woodland deer. These jobs tend to be concentrated in relatively remote rural areas where alternative employment opportunities are scarce.

Local butcher

Stalking creates a number of ‘spin-off’ jobs in rural communities. It generates income for other parts of the rural economy such as hotels and shops, fencing suppliers and craft businesses, and supports a significant wild venison industry. The Association of Deer Management Groups estimates the annual value of deer stalking lets in Scotland at between £5 million and £7 million, with venison sales averaging the same.

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Wider policy

Scotland’s Wild Deer: A National Approach is the strategic vision for deer management in Scotland. It has 5 themes that set out how private and public bodies can work together to deliver outcomes. These are:

  1. Collaboration and Effective Deer Management Planning and Implementation
  2. Healthy Ecosystems
  3. Lowland and Urban Deer
  4. Economic and Community Development
  5. Training and Wild Deer Welfare

The Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011 introduced the Code of Practice on Deer Management (Deer Code), which came into effect in 2012. WDNA provides a forward looking perspective, whilst the Deer Code is about delivery and lays out the deer management responsibilities and recognises the public interest in deer management.

The next tier down in the tool box for deer managers are the Wild Deer Best Practice Guides, which provide specific technical and practical skills for practioners and people on the ground.

This diagram shows the broad relationship between integrated land use, WDNA, Deer Code, Wild Deer Best Practice and people who work to deliver collaborative deer management in Scotland (source: Scotland’s Wild Deer: A National Approach document).

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How we can help

The Park Authority will support delivery through deer management groups by:

  • Providing clarity on the public interest priorities
  • Supporting the use of herbivore impact assessments and habitat monitoring to inform management
  • Supporting peatland restoration projects and woodland improvement & creation projects
  • Supporting training opportunities to ensure high standards of competence in deer management
  • Supporting deer management groups and facilitating communication and joint action across deer management group boundaries where necessary
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