15 March 2023
NatureScot has concluded use of its intervention powers to carry out a cull of red deer in Sutherland to protect designated habitats.
NatureScot stalkers were on the ground at Loch Choire Estate in East Sutherland for 10 days throughout January and February to carry out a cull under section 10(4) of the Deer (Scotland) Act 1996. In total 160 deer were culled and processed for venison.
While deer are an iconic species and form an important part of our biodiversity, their high numbers and lack of natural predators mean that they can have a negative impact on peatlands, woodlands and other habitats. Sustainable deer management is vital to bring populations in balance with nature and effectively tackle the twin crises of biodiversity loss and climate change.
This action was taken because NatureScot was satisfied red deer were having a significant impact on peatlands, woodlands and other habitats in this area, a large proportion of which are covered by protected area designations. This includes four Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) wholly or partly falling on the estate’s land.
In recent years, inadequate culling had taken place on the estate causing concern over growing deer numbers and their impacts. The owner did not respond to repeated efforts to engage and find alternative solutions. The action was taken after the owner failed to respond to a formal request under section 10(2) of the Act to carry out a proportionate and timely cull of deer.
Donald Fraser, NatureScot’s Head of Wildlife Management, said: “Our highly skilled stalkers faced challenging winter conditions to successfully carry out this cull in what is a very remote area. In undertaking this work, as ever they have displayed the highest standards of professionalism and best practice, putting deer welfare at the heart of the operation.
“While we always favour a voluntary and collaborative approach to deer management, this action demonstrates that NatureScot will make use of the full range of powers available to us when necessary, to secure vital benefits for nature and climate.
“We are pleased that the estate has now employed a stalker, who our team have been liaising with, and deer management has resumed on the property. As a next step, NatureScot will now be seeking a voluntary control agreement under section 7 of the Deer (Scotland) Act 1996 to secure a longer term solution to the damage on Loch Choire estate.”
Sir Michael Wigan, Chairman of the local East Sutherland Deer Management Group, said: “The Deer Management Group continues to be supportive of NatureScot’s approach and the way in which they have delivered this approach. We will continue to work with NatureScot to deliver effective and sustainable deer management.”
The Association of Deer Management Groups and Scottish Environment LINK’s Deer Group have also expressed support for this action.