16 January 2023
NatureScot has used its intervention powers to carry out a cull of red deer in Sutherland.
NatureScot stalkers have been on the ground at Loch Choire Estate in East Sutherland to carry out an initial cull under section 10(4) of the Deer (Scotland) Act 1996.
The ongoing action is being taken because NatureScot is satisfied red deer are having a significant impact on peatlands, woodlands and other habitats in the area, a large proportion of which is 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, little or no culling has taken place on the estate causing concern over growing deer numbers. The owner has not responded to repeated efforts to engage and find alternative solutions. This recent 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: “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 if we are to bring populations in balance with nature and effectively tackle the twin crises of biodiversity loss and climate change.
“While we always favour a voluntary and collaborative approach to deer management, NatureScot will not hesitate to make use of the full range of powers available to us when necessary, to secure vital benefits for nature and climate.
“We put welfare at the heart of all our wildlife management decisions and all culling by our qualified and authorised staff is carried out to the highest standards of professionalism and best practice.”
Sir Michael Wigan, Chairman of the local East Sutherland Deer Management Group, said: “The Deer Management Group is supportive of NatureScot’s approach here due to the lack of this estate’s efforts to manage deer populations on the property and the need for local collaboration, which is important for effective and sustainable upland red deer management.”
The Association of Deer Management Groups has also expressed support for this action.
Duncan Orr-Ewing, Chair of Scottish Environment LINK's Deer Group, said: “We fully support this responsible action by NatureScot. In the context of the climate and nature emergencies, sustainable deer management - carried out humanely by expert stalkers - is required to reduce deer populations in some areas. Full cooperation by all relevant landowners is required to help deliver the public interest.”