Managing deer for climate and nature

Climate and nature crises

Globally and in Scotland, nature is in decline and we face a climate emergency. Greater urgency is required to meet the challenges of these twin crises and the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy, launched in 2023, sets ambitious targets to halt nature loss by 2030 and deliver nature restoration across Scotland by 2045. We know that if we restore nature, it can also contribute over 40% of Scotland’s drive for net-zero carbon emissions by 2045.

Deer are iconic species with cultural significance in Scotland and form an important part of our biodiversity. But their high numbers and lack of natural predators mean they are having a negative impact in our landscape.

These negative impacts of excessive deer numbers can be seen throughout our forests – from preventing new trees from growing to damaging existing woodland. We need to expand our forests and woodlands if we are to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss, but it is simply not possible to do this if the high densities of deer are not tackled.

Deer management is vital if we are to bring populations into balance with the rest of nature and effectively tackle the twin crises of biodiversity loss and climate change through forest regeneration, woodland creation, peatland restoration and habitat improvement. Real progress has been made, but a significant reduction in wild deer numbers is required if we are to meet the ambitious but necessary targets to restore nature and reach net-zero.

Our approach

The 2020 report by the independent Deer Working Group (DWG) to the Scottish Government made 99 recommendations relating to the management of wild deer in Scotland. Most of the recommendations were accepted and we are working with the Scottish Government to implement them through our Deer Work Programme.

Implementing the DWG recommendations is a key part of delivering Net Zero ambitions and the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy (SBS).

To help meet the challenge of halting biodiversity loss by 2030 and reversing it with large-scale restoration by 2045, the Scottish Government has established the Deer Management Strategic Board. This Board will agree priorities to improve Scotland’s deer management systems, with actions split across four work streams: legislation, regulation, incentives and operational delivery.

This will ensure that deer management remains integral to the delivery of the SBS ambition.

In addition to working with Scottish Government, we also meet regularly to discuss a range of issues associated with deer management with the Deer Management Round Table.

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