Deer Management Group Update

Dave Windle

Since our last issue, the Government has managed to respond on the Deer Management Working Group report. To my surprise, Roseanna Cunningham promised to act on 91 of the 99 recommendations proposed by the working group - Deer Working Group recommendations: Scottish Government response
(The management of wild deer in Scotland: Deer Working Group report)

Scottish Government accepts majority of deer management proposals (P&J 24 March 2021)

The key recommendations have been adopted. Although, we should note that many of them are far from perfect, being the result of compromise. For example, the proposed “upper limit” of 10 deer/km2 is still far too high for natural regeneration. However, the introduction of Habitat Impact Assessments, where actual grazing damage is measured, should redress this. Overall, the recommendations will be a significant step forward in the right direction. We now face a long period of consultation while changes to primary legislation are drafted and actions within the existing legislation are defined. Much will depend on how enthusiastically Mairi Gougeon takes up the challenge.

The SGA has reacted with its usual hysteria, claiming that this amounts to “slaughter in the open air” and will harm the mental health of gamekeepers: Gamekeepers warn changes to deer cull season will damage their mental health (P&J 23 March 2021) They seem particularly upset at proposals to extend the culling season. You have to admire their publicist, who seems able to come up with the most imaginative reasons why change should be resisted. Mental health is a topical subject right now and an ideal excuse. It’s almost as good as claiming that bird lovers are killing raptors to put the blame on innocent gamekeepers. If deer numbers were managed correctly, there would be no need to extend the season, but they’re not being managed correctly on many estates. Why is shooting a deer in January acceptable and yet in March becomes “slaughter in the open air”?

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