Steps will have to be taken to protect the mental health of Scotland’s deer managers if Scottish Government doubles the length of the female cull season.
That’s the view of The Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) who represent professional deer managers.
A Deer Working Group report, commissioned by Government, recommended a major overhaul to the female deer seasons, which normally run from 21st October to 15th February.
These seasons were put in place in Scotland to protect the welfare of females giving birth to calves and the welfare of dependent infants.
Should Scottish Government sanction the new season recommendation, which will mean a cull start date of 1st September to a latest point of 15th April, it effectively doubles the season.
This will mean greater chance of dependent calves starving to death if their mothers are shot in September and the deer manager can not also dispatch the calf.
Furthermore, it will mean deer managers will have to cut large calves from the stomachs of heavily pregnant mothers, potentially into mid April.
That, Scotland’s gamekeepers say, could leave mental scars on deer managers unaccustomed to this style of management.
They have produced a film (below) to show the public the size of a deer foetus, which was cut from the stomach of a female deer which had to be humanely dispatched following a road accident in March.
Should the season change be brought forward, they say, it will open skilled deer managers up to abuse, reducing their status as wildlife managers.
Scotland, a nation of animal lovers, will also see the dignity stripped from a species regarded as iconic.
“Anyone who loves animals would not love this,” said SGA Chairman Alex Hogg.
‘We fought hard for deer seasons so some dignity and respect could be preserved.
“If the Deer Working Group recommendations are adopted, extending the seasons by over 15 weeks, Scotland is basically endorsing slaughter in the open air.
“I have managed deer for over four decades. I don’t know anyone who has had to cut a large foetus out of a mother and enjoyed doing so. This will become the norm in public forests, paid for by the Scottish tax payer.
“Some people will do it just because they need to pay the bills and to follow orders. They should not be placed in this position, but we fear for the mental wellbeing of deer managers if Scottish Government decides to adopt this. Officials need to consider these implications. The politicians need to ask if they would be happy to carry this action out, themselves, on the ground.”
The SGA has written to Environment Ministers on several occasions expressing disappointment at lack of professional deer manager representation on working groups and reports.
Its Vice Chairman Peter Fraser says this proposal would not have come forward, if practitioners had more say.
“An experienced deer manager would have questioned this immediately because they would probably have had to do it, at some stage.
“If a farmer turned up at an abattoir with a late pregnant cow in Scotland, it could only be killed for disease control or welfare purposes.
“Deer managers will be asked to cull deer into mid-April when the mum is heavily pregnant.
“They will then have to remove the calf, which will be moving. There will definitely be deer managers who just simply won’t do this.”
Link to YouTube film: 'Our fears for the mental health of Scotland's deer managers'. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BTz2PVGO7XQ