More than 150,000 deer are to be professionally culled across Scotland over the next five years.
Forestry and Land Scotland, the Scottish Government agency responsible for managing national forests and land, has released a five-year deer management tender that it says underlines its commitment to improving and enhancing its sustainable management of Scotland’s beautiful scenery.
At any one time on Scotland’s national forests and land, there are up to 150 million young trees vulnerable to damage from deer – and FLS estimate the cost of the damage done is in the region of £3m annually.
Valued at around £25m to £31m for the five-year period, the tender will establish a range of contracts that will help deliver a professional cull of over 150,000 deer.
The figure is a slight increase in previous cull levels but FLS say it is necessary to address the high density of deer across the country and to protect Scotland’s national forests and land, and a wide range of habitats, from the excessive negative impacts caused by deer.
Ian Fergusson, FLS’ head of wildlife management, explained: “Scotland is facing a substantial challenge in keeping its deer population at a level that is in balance with the environment.
“With the estimated number of deer being about one million animals across the country, their concentrations in some areas are detrimental to woodland creation, to nature conservation, to the environments and habitats that they and many other species depend on and – ultimately – to the long-term health of the herd.
“As responsible land managers we need to act to achieve the necessary balance within the deer population – and that is something that can only realistically be attained through evidence-based culls sustained by year round effort.
“For many years we have delivered our annual culls thanks to the hundreds of highly trained contractors, who work in partnership to the same high professional standards as our own staff.
“We have also engaged with them to present this tender in a way that works best for them and for us – so we’re looking forward to there being a substantial response.”
The contracts will have a significant positive economic impact in rural communities by supporting up to 100 jobs in the deer management sector and, through the supply of around 37,000 carcasses annually, will continue to support jobs in Scotland’s venison processing sector
The carcasses from FLS cull go into Scotland’s venison processing sector and ultimately end up dressed as a wide range of quality food products for the home and international markets.
The long-term approach by FLS to its tendering arrangements is a change from the norm.
For example, a Fife-based company has just been awarded a £32,000 contract to cull deer in the region over a two-month period at the start of this year.
However, the new contracts starting in the summer will be broken down by area and will establish minimum cull targets each year.
Tom Turnbull, chair of the Association of Deer Management Groups, said: “We note that FLS is changing its tendering arrangements and support this change where it delivers sustainable deer management that follows Best Practice Guidance and is undertaken in the public interest.
“ADMG also notes that FLS has a commitment to work with local communities and to continue to collaborate with neighbours which is welcomed.
“Where deer damage is detrimental to establishing trees in areas suited for this then appropriate deer management measures, including fencing, are vital.
“Deer Management Groups are recognised as having made significant inroads in the last 20 years in holding steady and reducing upland deer populations.
“Balance is, as ever, required and it is important that we do not demonise or undervalue our deer but continue to recognise the crucial part that they play in our natural environment and our rural economy.”
By Local Democracy reporter Craig Smith