Road accidents involving deer increase by 35 percent: Nearly 1800 accidents
Winter is a particularly dangerous time, when deer often move to lower ground for grazing and drivers face wet and icy driving conditions in poor light.
Official figures recorded 1,756 collisions involving deer in 2018, an increase of more than a third over the last decade.
However, when the Deer Working Group reported to the Scottish Government earlier this year on how Scotland should manage deer populations, the group concluded that the total number of road accidents involving deer is closer to 8,000 - 14,000, each year.
The significant difference between the official figures and widely accepted estimates of the total number of road accidents involving deer, is due to a number of factors but mainly it is inconsistent recording.
Forestry & Land Scotland, which was asked to contribute data to the Working Group, reported that its rangers often get called out to tend to wounded deer near the forest areas it manages across Scotland. FLS is responsible for 650,000 hectares across Scotland or 9% of Scotland’s land area and deer management is a significant part of its activity.
Ian Fergusson, Head of Wildlife Management for FLS said: “Scotland’s deer population is increasing and we have watched the deer-related road accident statistics climb steadily over the past decade or so.
“Deer pose many challenges in terms of habitat management; the more deer there are the greater potential damage they can do. When deer numbers are high or food is scarce, they need to range widely for enough food and this often brings them down into more urban areas; and in terms of busy roads the results can be catastrophic.”
Deer numbers in Scotland are estimated to have increased from around 511,000 in 1990 to around 1 million as of 2020. To help protect Scotland’s national forests and land from the negative impacts of deer, Forestry and Land Scotland employs a number of techniques, including deer culling and fencing, where appropriate, to keep numbers down to a sustainable level, keeping herds healthy and mitigating against habitat loss.
Most recorded road accidents involving deer occur in the Highland, Aberdeenshire, Central Belt, and Fife regions, but areas in west central Scotland, including North and South Lanarkshire have also seen significant increases in the last decade.
Road Policing Area Commander, Chief Inspector Neil Lumsden, said: "When using rural and country roads these are all questions you must continually be asking yourself. I would always remind people to drive to the conditions, understand and react to warning signs, they are there for a reason. Ensure you know what they mean, slow down, drive appropriately and expect the unexpected."
Winter is considered to be one of the most dangerous times on the roads for Deer Vehicle Collisions (DVC), with deer typically being more active during dawn and dusk which falls at times when more cars are on the roads.
It’s estimated that in Scotland, the actual number of DVCs involving human injury may exceed 120 per year.