The significance of deer on the NFE
The Scottish deer population is estimated to be around 777,000 and has an important part to play in Scotland’s biodiversity.
Deer can have a major effect on habitat and the landscape. To help protect the forest environment, we play a significant role in sustainable deer management through the proactive management of deer numbers, densities and damage impacts on the National Forest Estate (NFE).
Protecting the National Forest Estate
Throughout 2016-17, we aim to cull around 30,000 deer in order to protect the NFE's natural assets, including planting sites, conservation areas, forest habitats and vulnerable standing crops from bark-stripping or browsing damage by deer. This, combined with the strategic fencing of some forest areas to exclude deer, helps maintain a sustainable population which is in balance with the forest environment.
This cull represents around 30% of Scotland’s national recorded cull, delivered on just 8% of Scotland’s land area and is a significant contribution to the Scottish Government’s deer management objectives. This cull reflects our strong commitment to sustainable deer management and protection of the NFE.
The breakdown of the cull this year will be around 52% Roe, 38% Red, 9% Sika and 1% Fallow.
Ascertaining the level of deer impacts and deer densities which will allow us to achieve favourable environmental condition is complex and varies from location to location. We are continuing to develop our skills in this area.
Bruce Sewell, Forest Management Officer for Forest Enterprise Scotland explains: “To support the detailed recording of this cull we have recently developed in conjunction with Information Services and rolled out an updated and enhanced version of the Wildlife Management System which will greatly aid our deer management analysis and decision-making processes. We record factors such as the date/time/location of each deer culled on the NFE plus deer species, sex, weight and condition and this information helps us to manage and adjust the annual cull and monitor the general health of the deer population on the NFE. The data also helps us with deer population assessment on the NFE.”
We have very recently installed a new state of the art deer larder at the University of the Highlands and Island’s Dale Farm site near Thurso. The new larder will provide a modern carcass preparation and chilling facility for deer culled on the NFE in Caithness. It will also provide an on-campus, quality training opportunity for students at UHI’s Game Keeping College allowing them to learn first-hand about carcass preparation, presentation, chilling and hygiene to meet stringent Scottish Quality Wild Venison Assurance standards.
Other work on deer management includes contributing to SNH’s Review of Authorisations by providing a clear explanation as to why options or tools such as out of season shooting, night shooting and thermal imaging are essential to the delivery of sustainable deer management on the NFE. We have also provided background information and data to SNH to help inform the Review of Deer Management in Scotland 2016.