New proposal to tackle rise of urban deer

Scotland’s gamekeepers have written to Scottish Government proposing a pilot scheme aimed at managing impacts caused by rising deer numbers around central belt cities.


Whilst many think of red deer stags in the highlands when imagining deer, populations of the smaller roe deer have been expanding unchecked, close to our largest population centres.


Road traffic accidents involving roe deer are increasing and habitats in public green spaces, domestic gardens, amenities and nature reserves are being negatively impacted by heavy browsing.


Now the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA), which represents professional deer managers, is seeking Government support for a trial scheme, it claims, will begin to address years of neglect.

Healthy venison


The costed scheme would see an initial cull increase, taking pressure off road systems and habitats, with high quality, low fat roe venison, managed to the highest welfare standards, going into the food chain.


For a modest investment by Scottish Government and provision of a larder facility, trained recreational deer managers will present central belt roe deer for collection by an approved game meat handling establishment.


With annual growth targets, the SGA believes the pilot will give Scottish Government a clear view of what could be achieved for people and biodiversity in urban and suburban areas, with greater agency prioritisation.


Need for prioritisation


Scottish Government has already indicated it intends to spend a six figure sum on 3 other deer management pilot schemes around Scotland, although the industrialised central belt has not been targeted for investment.


The SGA-backed scheme has identified two potential sites around Glasgow as possible hub locations.


Disproportionate benefit per spend


“If you journey in your car around the major cities now, the chances are you will see roe deer. That wasn’t always the case. They are drawn to areas like roadside verges. There are more carriageway collisions, which means more insurance bills and a greater danger to public safety.


“It was inevitable because, for decades, there has been such little focus on these areas and no infrastructure. That now needs to be addressed and with a small amount of targeted investment, there could be a disproportionate benefit for people, biodiversity and for the deer themselves,” said David Quarrell, an experienced urban deer manager and member of the SGA Deer Group.

Under-utilised deer managers


Despite a historic lack of central emphasis on deer management in these areas, there is presently an under-utilised surfeit of trained deer managers, numbering around 2000 qualified individuals, around the central belt.


The SGA says that these deer managers could do much more for biodiversity, with support.


One key barrier has been access to larder and processing facilities for the end product, venison, with some only having access to small chill units and fridges in their own homes.


With more incentive to manage deer, proper access to appropriate facilities and food markets, the SGA believes this untapped skills resource could become an asset for Scotland’s biodiversity.

“It has been identified that Scotland will have to increase its deer cull by around 50 000 animals per year to meet biodiversity targets. Yet, we have this under-utilised resource of deer managers close to our cities, keen to do more, with the right help.


“Our proposal starts from a small base but has potential to grow and be rolled out further, by demonstrating what can be achieved,” said SGA Chairman, Alex Hogg, MBE.


The pilot scheme prioritises humanely managing female deer, within season, because reducing female populations has been identified as the key to reducing overall populations.


Additional venison going through the larder will go to food banks, local uses and community causes.


It is commonly quoted by decision makers that Scotland has 1 million deer. Are we prioritising, in the right areas? Watch our film: How 750 000 deer went missing in Scotland, and subscribe to our YouTube channel (see below) 


Roe deer around towns and cities


  • It is estimated that there are between 300 000 and 400 000 roe deer in Scotland
  • a native deer of the UK, they live for around 10 years and are territorial
  • they are found at the edges of woodlands and in areas of copses and hedgerows, as well as agricultural fields
  • because they only require small pockets of cover, they are increasingly being found around cities, with some living within striking distance of Glasgow City Centre. Planted community woods and landscaped areas will attract roe deer, as will golf courses and motorway verges with palatable scrub species, which were not designed with deer in mind.
  • It should be noted that, in many instances, the deer were present before development and can be seen as re-colonising previous ground
  • There are around 8000-10 000 Deer Vehicle Collisions in Scotland annually (source: Wild Deer Best Practice), with the majority around the Central Belt and Aberdeenshire. Roe deer feature prominently in these incidents which pose a threat to public safety.
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