Land managers have been granted more measures to control Scotland’s rapidly growing deer population in a bid to boost biodiversity and prevent nature loss.
The Scottish Government announced the updated rules which have been introduced to parliament this week.
The changes to existing laws will make is easier to reduce unsustainable deer numbers in order to protect plant life and boost rewilding efforts.
Under the new regulations, authorised land managers will have the power to cull male deer across a longer period of the year and use specialist scopes known as ‘night sights’ to cull deer at night.
They will also be allowed to use ammunition which is less damaging to venison products.
Biodiversity minister Lorna Slater said: “These changes – recommended by the Deer Working Group – will allow deer to be managed in a way that is both beneficial to our environment and the rural economies that rely upon deer.
“Deer are an iconic species that is synonymous with rural Scotland but their numbers have reached densities that can have a devastating impact on our land due to trampling and overgrazing. This activity can prevent new trees from growing and damage existing woodland.
“The changes to rules on ammunition will also boost Scotland’s venison sector. Lead is toxic to humans and its presence can spoil venison products. That’s why we are now allowing land managers to use different types of ammunition. This will make more venison available to both foreign and domestic markets.”
Mike Daniels, vice-convenor of Scottish Environment LINK Deer Group said: “We strongly support the Scottish Government’s proposals to improve the flexibility of deer management, based on the independent scrutiny of the Deer Working Group and its final recommendations.
“More than ever we need to make all of the tools available to Scotland’s skilled and experienced deer managers to deliver the urgent changes required for nature and for all of us.”
Peter Clark, Scotland director of British Association for Shooting and Conservation added: “BASC Scotland supports the decision to amend the minimum bullet weight because it will make non-lead ammunition more accessible.
“Many stalkers are already required to use lead-free ammunition, be it through lease conditions or AGHE requirement, thus this would ensure that stalkers in these situations can continue to manage deer populations and supply venison into the food chain.”