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Forestry and Land Scotland has today (10 Dec 2021) released a five year deer management tender that underlines its commitment to improving and enhancing its sustainable management of Scotland’s National Forests and Land.

The tender follows the recent launch of FLS’s Climate Change Plan that outlines steps the organisation will take to help Scotland reach Net Zero and respond to the biodiversity crisis.

Deer management will be an essential element in delivering on this plan. 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 £3 million annually.

Valued at around £25-£31M for the five year period (£18 - £24M net value after venison sales), the tender will establish a range of contracts that will help deliver a professional cull of more than 150,000 deer.

This is a slight increase in previous cull levels but 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, said;

“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 1 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.

Sustainable management of the herd nationally will see deer continue to occupy their place as a vital part of Scotland’s biodiversity.

The Independent Deer Working Group has also called for proactive deer management, a call that was addressed in the Scottish Government response to the report.

Additional supportive quotes:

Duncan Orr-Ewing, speaking for Scottish Environment LINK’s Deer Group, said;

“It is widely and urgently recognised that the unnaturally high deer population in Scotland is a significant challenge in trying to restore and regenerate our environment in the light of the climate crisis and biodiversity emergency.

“In the absence of natural predators humane deer culling is the only way to control populations for their own health and that of the environment in which they depend. Restoration of our native woodlands and peatlands is key to naturally capturing carbon, boosting biodiversity and sustaining thriving rural communities.

“We fully support Forest and Land Scotland’s efforts to address this challenge for the good of Scotland’s nature and people.”

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.”

Christian Nissen, Managing Director of Highland Game, which buys all of the venison produced by FLS, said;

“Highland Game is proud of the partnership with Forestry and Land Scotland.

“We have had a good working relationship with them for several years and they have always provided us with high quality wild venison, which is greatly valued by our customers across the food and drink, and retail sectors.”

Notes to editors

  1. Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) manages forests and land owned by Scottish Ministers in a way that supports and enables economically sustainable forestry; conserves and enhances the environment; delivers benefits for people and nature; and supports Scottish Ministers in their stewardship of Scotland's national forests and land.

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  3. Media enquiries to Paul Munro, Media Manager, Forestry and Land Scotland Media Office 07785 527590 or