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Who manages the deer and why?

Deer in Scotland are owned by nobody. Despite the lack of ownership, deer are managed by various organisations and individuals to meet a variety of different aims.

Deer management is part of the management of Scotland's countryside, land and natural assets. For deer to be managed effectively they have to be seen as part of this wider management system.  They are a natural asset, an integral part of the countryside, and their presence can influence the environment around them - the assorted plants, trees and other wildlife.

The ways in which individuals and organisations manage Scotland's deer depends on what individuals and organisations wish to achieve with their land.

Deer as a hunting asset

For landowners, deer may represent a hunting asset - people pay to hunt and shoot deer.  In this instance, one of the main aims of the deer management system is to ensure there are enough deer to meet sporting (hunting) requirements. The deer population must also be suitably healthy so that visitors know they are hunting an animal of good quality.

Deer impacts on agriculture and other interests

Crofters and farmers are usually concerned by the need to protect agricultural land used to grow crops or raise cattle. In these circumstances, deer may not be viewed as an asset but as a potential problem. If deer are entering their land and grazing or trampling crops then the crofter or farmer may shoot the deer to reduce the risk of damage.

Deer are also managed to take into account other interests including forestry and conservation.

Managing deer in the public interest

The public interest must also be taken into account. The public interest includes incidents where deer stray onto public roads, increasing the risk of deer-related road accidents. Steps must be taken, usually by landowners, to prevent accidents from happening. 

Our role at Scottish Natural Heritage

At Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) we have statutory responsibility to:

  • Further the conservation, control and sustainable management of all species of wild deer in Scotland.
  • Ensure deer do not have an adverse impact on designated sites - Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protection Areas (SPA). These areas exist throughout Scotland, through designations set down in EU law, to protect rare tree and plant species and endangered wildlife such as the Capercaillie.
  • Ensure deer are being managed effectively, by everyone involved, in a way which takes into account the various aims and interests that exist, and does not unnecessarily compromise the welfare of wild deer.
  • Ensure action is taken, usually by land managers, to protect the public interest, e.g. in cases where there is increased risk of deer related road traffic accidents.
  • Keep under review all matters relating to wild deer, including their welfare.

A shared responsibility

The owners of land in Scotland have a duty of care for the natural resources that they own. They must also work with neighbours to take account of other objectives.

At SNH we have to ensure that the different management systems used meet these requirements and that, in doing so, they do not unnecessarily compromise the welfare of deer.

Last updated on Friday 19th February 2016 at 16:01 PM. Click here to comment on this page