£25million deer management contracts awarded

Forestry and Land Scotland has now awarded its five-year, £25-31 million deer management tender for 10 major regional contracts.

Mark Dowie
Monday, 1st August 2022, 7:00am
£25million deer management contracts awarded

The contracts will bring direct investment in communities across Scotland through the award of subcontracts, business up-scaling, the provision of training and apprenticeship opportunities.

Coming into effect at the end of this month, it will give contractors time to establish themselves in areas across the summer months in readiness for culling, under NatureScot licence, from September onwards.

Deer management is essential to protect the 150 million young trees that - at any one time on FLS land - are vulnerable to browsing damage from deer. FLS estimates the cost of the damage done is in the region of £3 million annually.

Ian Fergusson, FLS’ head of wildlife management, said that effective measures are vital to the forested environment.

He said: “Scotland’s forests and timber industry are fundamental to climate emergency mitigation and the prevention of biodiversity loss.

“Our productive forests are additionally becoming increasingly important as a natural resource, particularly as global markets face unprecedented levels of flux and the UK is importing 80% of its annual timber requirement.

“It is vital, therefore, that we continue to limit the negative environmental impacts of deer damage on our forests and fragile habitats by helping to reduce deer numbers nationally to a sustainable population level.

“Awarding these 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.

With deer populations having doubled in 30 years and the estimated number of deer being over 1 million across the country, FLS is looking to deliver a professional cull on the land it manages of more than 200,000 deer over the next five years.

This will be achieved through its dedicated in-house wildlife management staff, its new contracts and by working collaboratively with other land managers.

Deer population concentrations in some areas are so high that they 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.

Maintaining deer numbers at a sustainable level, where they are in balance with the environment, requires the constant gathering of data and evidence to focus the year-round deer management effort of highly trained professional FLS rangers and the hundreds of professional contractors who work with them. In doing so, and as per existing and previous practices, FLS will maximise the use of all authorisations available to then, subject to approval from NatureScot. This will include the culling of adult female deer in September while fully complying with best practice.

Proactive deer management has been seen as necessary both in the Independent Deer Working Group report and in the Scottish Government response to the report.

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