SNH Commissioned Report 981 - Estimating national trends and regional differences in red deer density on open-hill ground in Scotland: identifying the causes of change and consequences for upland habitats

Both the extent of Scotland's red deer population and the negative impacts by herbivores on the natural heritage have been debated for decades.

This report explains the overall trend in red deer density on open-hill ground in the Highlands and Islands, and regional variation, since censuses began in 1961. Its aim is to provide Scottish Natural Heritage with a comprehensive analysis of existing evidence on population status and trends. 

Variation in population density is explored in terms of two major drivers:

  • culling effort
  • levels of sheep stocking

Forestry Commission Scotland land was excluded from the analysis. The impact of climate change was also beyond the scope of this study.

The study examines the impact of deer and sheep on the natural heritage by analysing the likelihood that features in protected areas are in 'favourable' condition, using Site Condition Monitoring programme records.

This report follows on from the preliminary findings on status and trends in density published in 2016, in Deer Management in Scotland. Since then, the statistical models have been refined to give more robust estimates. Some of the results of the study therefore differ from the earlier results.

See also: Deer Management in Scotland

Pages: 36
Published: 2017

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