Red deer sector confident of showing good progress

Scotland’s upland Deer Management Groups are confident their three yearly review will show good progress and recognise the significant contribution they make to the nation.

Some 45 DMGs effectively cover the majority of the red deer range, almost half of Scotland’s land area, and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has now submitted its latest review report to Ministers.

They have now been assessed for the third time in six years with previous reviews taking place in 2014 and 2016.

Richard Cooke, chairman of the Association of Deer Management Groups (ADMG) is hopeful that the considerable progress made by the Groups will be evident, and that the important part that they play in safeguarding and promoting Scotland’s natural environment will be recognised.

He said: ‘The evidence from the review will we believe show that our sector is at the forefront of ecological and habitat regeneration, enhancing the landscape, and managing Scotland’s iconic deer herd sustainably – all a far cry from how, and too often, we are portrayed.

‘We believe that this very detailed examination and analysis, which has now been presented to Government, provides clear evidence of progress, both at national and local levels. The SNH Assessment system is now well established and is a robust means of monitoring the effectiveness of deer management.

‘Clearly the timescales over which environmental change can be brought about may be decades, but that process is well underway. In terms of deer densities, the report produced by the James Hutton Institute for SNH in 2017 based on SNH count data showed that, after a period of population growth, overall densities of deer on the open hill had been relatively stable since 2000 at an overall average of around 10 deer/km2 and are now declining due to culling pressure. This despite falling sheep numbers and more favourable climatic conditions leading to higher levels of recruitment.’

Richard asserts that the voluntary principle and collaboration are at the heart of progress being made and that through joint working even the smallest changes can make significant differences on a landscape scale.

He added: ‘It is clear that land managers have embraced the need to look forward and are responding to fast changing national priorities. This is evidenced in the evolution and implementation of deer management plans that cover over 3 million hectares of the uplands and address a whole range of important factors such as habitat impact assessment, woodland expansion, peatland restoration, and delivering demonstrable public benefit, including a major contribution to the Scottish Government’s climate change agenda.

‘We need to build on this to ensure that this considerable private and public investment continues to contribute in these areas, supports our fragile rural economy – and is recognised for doing so.”

‘We await a response to the SNH report from the Cabinet Secretary, and thereafter discussion at the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee. We also await the findings of the Government appointed Deer Working Group which is due to report on the system of deer management in Scotland next month. What I do believe however is that the 2019 assessment will demonstrate considerable progress and responsiveness to the findings of previous reviews. The sector has shown that it can rise to the challenge, adapt to a fast-changing world and new priorities such as the climate emergency. There is, we acknowledge, much more to do and the red deer sector will play its part.’

ADMG has undertaken its own assessment of the Upland Deer Management Sector, based on the 101 agreed criteria forming the SNH review, and feedback from SNH to the 45 individuals DMGs.