The creative plan to cull urban deer numbers in Scotland after rise in road accidents

Deer managers said a modest sum from the Scottish Government could help establish a venison processing facility to introduce urban deer into the food chain.

A new pilot scheme has been proposed to control urban deer numbers due to the increase in road collisions and introduce the meat into the food chain. 

The need to control Scotland’s deer population is often associated with the Highlands and more rural areas of the country because of their impact on nature regeneration projects, including tree planting initiatives.

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But populations of the smaller roe deer have been expanding, unchecked, close to the country’s largest cities: Edinburgh and Glasgow.

The latest NatureScot report on Deer Vehicle Collisions (DVCs) showed the greatest increase for Scotland for DVCs was in the Central Belt, with May and June being the peak months overall. 

The Scottish Government agency figures show DVCs have almost doubled between 2008 and 2020 from around 1,000 incidents to 2,000 a year. The report said each year in the UK, it is thought that more than 700 people are injured or killed, and over £17 million is spent on vehicle repairs because of DVCs.

The higher number of deer entering urban spaces also presents similar issues to those in rural areas such as heavy browsing - the nibbling of plants - in public green spaces, domestic gardens, amenities and nature reserves in more urban areas. 

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) has called on the Scottish Government for support for a trial scheme the group claims will begin to address “years of neglect” of this concern. 

The scheme would see an initial cull increase, taking pressure off roads and habitats in urban areas, before establishing a system that will introduce the venison, which the group said will be managed to meet welfare standards, to the food chain. 

The SGA said a modest sum from the Scottish Government and provision of a larder facility, with trained recreational deer managers, could then present Central Belt roe deer for collection by an approved game meat handling establishment.

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The group said it has already identified two potential sites around Glasgow - East Glasgow and East Renfrewshire - as possible hub locations. And despite the lack of emphasis on deer management in urban areas over the years, the SGA said there was presently an “under-utilised surfeit of trained deer managers numbering around 2,000 qualified individuals”.

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An SGA spokesperson said: “These deer managers could do more for biodiversity, with support. One key barrier has been access to larder and processing facilities for the end product - venison - with some only having access to small chill units and fridges in their own homes.

“With more incentive to manage deer, proper access to appropriate facilities and food markets, the SGA believes this untapped skills resource could become an asset for Scotland’s biodiversity.”

Alex Hogg, chairman of the SGA, said: “It has been identified that Scotland will have to increase its deer cull by around 50 000 animals per year to meet biodiversity targets. Yet, we have this under-utilised resource of deer managers close to our cities, keen to do more, with the right help.

“Our proposal starts from a small base, but has potential to grow and be rolled out further, by demonstrating what can be achieved.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are committed to ensuring Scotland’s system of deer management is effective, and meets our climate and biodiversity aims. As set out in our Climate Change Action Policy Package, we will develop a package of incentives for deer management to pilot across Scotland. Various locations are being considered in order to maximise the effectiveness of any future pilot projects.”



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