Response from ADMG to SNH Review of Deer Management for Scottish Government

The Report to the Scottish Government on Deer Management prepared by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has been published today, 18 November 2016.

The Review covers the upland deer range and low ground deer management, and all species of deer. The Association of Deer Management Groups (ADMG) has been working closely with individual deer management groups (DMGs) and SNH throughout the review process. Richard Cooke, ADMG Chairman, says:

“We have now seen the SNH Report on Deer Management and in particular welcome the recognition of the ‘significant progress’ made by the DMGs since 2014. We also appreciate the expression of gratitude for the efforts made by the DMGs in the SNH Chairman’s Foreword.  We agree that there are areas of Scotland where no formal collaborative approach to deer management yet exists.  These lie mainly in the areas where there are no DMGs or Lowland Deer Groups.  We have indeed drawn some of these areas to the attention of SNH over recent years and offered support in setting up DMGs and made recommendations as to how this may be achieved.

“We are surprised however by the continuing focus on historic deer numbers and densities as all our discussions with SNH acknowledge that numbers are of less significance than overall grazing impacts. SNH has commissioned the James Hutton Institute to review all their deer records but that study has yet to be presented.  It is therefore surprising that SNH is able to point to a 60 per cent increase in deer numbers since the 1960s.  The Report also refers to herbivore impacts but makes insufficient distinction between impacts of deer and of some 600,000 sheep.

“Whilst we have yet to study the Report in depth there appear also to be inconsistences between some figures quoted about deer densities and habitat impacts, and figures supplied to ADMG by SNH within the last few weeks.  We will seek clarification on these points with SNH at the earliest opportunity.

“The merger of the Deer Commission for Scotland with SNH in 2011 and the more recent break up of the SNH wildlife unit have resulted in a distancing between practical deer management on the ground and those who advise the Scottish Government on deer-related policy.  There has also been continued failure on the part of SNH to use their statutory powers, despite the encouragement of ADMG in some instances.  The recent reduction in funding for essential deer management tools such as Wild Deer Best Practice and completion of a deer management data processing system has also made it more difficult to put the new generation Deer Management Plans into action. ADMG is now raising funds to take these essential projects forward.

“We do not share SNH’s lack of confidence with regard to the capacity of the deer sector to move towards Scottish Government 2020 biodiversity targets. There has been much recent progress in capacity building in both upland and lowland deer management contexts and that will continue if there is proper recognition that this can only be achieved with the full engagement and encouragement of individual deer managers – made more difficult by the rather negative view of the SNH Report.

“ADMG, while accepting the challenges ahead, looks forward to working with the Scottish Government and supporting DMGs in delivering their Deer Management Plans over the next few years, and playing its part in addressing the Government’s biodiversity targets.”

The SNH Report can be accessed here