Deer and their impacts on wild land

Published: 24th June 2015

Read the latest on our work on the need to tackle high deer numbers, including the Scottish Government's deer review - updated December 2016

We are calling for action to tackle high deer numbers to reduce their impact on wild land.

Native wild deer (red and roe) are a key stone ‘habitat shaping’ species of uplands and woodlands in Scotland but the loss of native carnivores such as wolves and lynx, through human persecution, means that deer now have no natural predators. As a result, much of our upland environment is bare, degraded and impoverished as a result of overgrazing.

Deer tracks

On our own land we aim to maintain deer numbers at levels the land can sustain. Unfortunately, in many other parts of Scotland deer are present in high numbers and are out of balance with the natural environment. This can have a negative effect - through overgrazing and trampling - on habitat quality, biodiversity and delivery of ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration and flood prevention. Unfortunately culling of red deer has not kept pace with population expansion.

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On 18 November 2016 Scottish Natural Heritage published its review of Deer Management in Scotland This summarises the progress that deer management groups have made over the last couple of years. It also concludes that in some places deer continue to have a negative impact on biodiversity.

The Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform committee has been taking evidence from a range of stakeholders to allow MSPs to look at the issues. The Committee took evidence from Scottish Natural Heritage at its meeting on 22 November. The Trust's Mike Daniels formed part of a panel which gave evidence to the Committee on 13 December, amongst a range of stakeholders representing deer management groups, the environment and business sectors and academia. Watch coverage of this session here

Read the written evidence submitted to the committee by Scottish Environment LINK, - supported by member organisations RSPB Scotland, Ramblers Scotland, Woodland Trust Scotland, Scottish Wildlife Trust and Trees for Life, and the John Muir Trust - in the downloads below.

More about some of our past work on the need to tackle high deer numbers can be read here