Our role

Our statutory responsibility is to conserve native deer and further the control and sustainable management of all deer species in Scotland.

NatureScot must:

  • prevent deer from having adverse impacts on nature and other public interests
  • collaborate with stakeholders to ensure effective and humane management of deer
  • work with landowners to protect public safety and deer welfare, for example, by reducing the risk of deer vehicle collisions
  • keep all matters relating to wild deer under review

We also collect and maintain national data relating to deer management, support the development of Wild Deer Best Practice guidance and promote Scotland’s deer for the benefit of our economy.

Deer management data

Deer counting

Every year, a proportion of the red deer inhabiting the uplands of Scotland are counted. Counts are prioritised in areas where there are specific challenges over the delivery of public objectives such as nature conservation or protecting public safety.

Counts are traditionally conducted from the ground and from the air, using helicopters. However, the use of alternatives such as drones are being investigated for some situations. The cost of counting varies depending on the size of the area and other variables such as fuel costs and weather conditions.

View the NatureScot deer census results from 2006 onwards.

Deer culling

We collect some data on the number of deer culled in Scotland, as not all landowners and managers are asked to report the number of deer they take.

View data on the overall reported national cull from 1996 onwards.

Variations in the numbers reported each year occur due to:

  • the number of requests for returns issued by NatureScot and the accuracy of reporting
  • changes in land use priorities
  • enhanced reductions in deer numbers for nature conservation reasons
  • winter weather affecting the ability to control deer.

Control of deer under licence

We may issue a licence, known as an authorisation, to allow someone to shoot deer in circumstances that would otherwise be an offence.

View the numbers of deer controlled under authorisation from 2007 onwards.

Find out more about deer and licensing.

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