ADMG heartened that progress is recognised in SNH deer management report

Scotland’s upland deer sector is currently the subject of a review every three years by Scottish Natural Heritage.  These reviews are based on Deer Management Group (DMG) assessments against some 101 criteria.

ADMG Chairman, Richard Cooke says, in response to the latest SNH report that has just been presented to the Scottish Government:

“We are pleased to note that the SNH 2019 report Assessing Progress in Deer Management clearly recognises significant progress made by the Deer Management Groups (DMGs) since the 2016 review.  For example, 87% of groups have scored more than 90% in the Benchmark element of the SNH assessment of DMGs, up from 36% in 2016.”

There are now almost 50 DMGs, covering well over 3 million hectares, more than 40% of Scotland.  DMGs operate mainly in the management of red deer in the open range and in adjacent woodland and farmland in the north of the country.  Each DMG now has a deer management plan setting out all land use and environmental objectives in its area and identifying a target deer population which will meet the collective land management and environmental objectives of its members. The grazing and trampling impacts of deer and other herbivores on the habitat are now monitored by the DMGs with a system of habitat impact assessments (HIAs) introduced across the open range.

Deer management plans are reviewed every five years and are available online for public scrutiny, demonstrating the value of collaboration between neighbouring land managers and of public transparency.

Richard Cooke continues: 

“The SNH report recognises that, overall, red deer densities are now below 10/sq km and continue to decline due to culling at higher levels than in the past.  Around 22% of the red deer population is culled annually.

“The climate emergency is a matter for us all and DMGs are particularly well placed to make a contribution to Scottish Government net zero carbon targets by enabling native woodland restoration and expansion as well as peatland restoration which are now key elements of Government climate strategy. The SNH report identifies that most DMGs have recognised where such improvements can be made and many projects are being implemented. 

“To date over 19,000ha of peatland work has been completed with much more at the planning stage, and much of the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy target of 10,000ha of new native woodland by 2020 is being delivered within the DMG areas. We acknowledge however that there is more to do, particularly in relation to native woodland restoration but we will need more help from the Scottish Government and its agencies to be able to do this.

“Deer management will remain in the spotlight over the coming months as we reach the parliamentary stage of the 2019 review and with the report of the Scottish Government’s Deer Working Group due shortly.  We welcome that. 

“While recognising that many challenges lie ahead the red deer sector has shown that it can respond to changing circumstances and that it recognises its public accountability.  As ever, collaboration between all relevant interests is the name of the game and will be even more essential in rising to the challenges of climate change.”

Below are links to the main SNH report and three associated research reports:

Assessing Progress in Deer Management – SNH report to Scottish Government – 

1. SNH Research Report 1149 – Updating the estimates of national trends and regional differences in red deer densities on open-hill ground in Scotland –

2. SNH Research Report 1158 – Deer-Vehicle Collision (DVC) data collection and analysis 2016 – 2018 –

3. SNH Research Report 1188 – Lowland deer management – assessing the delivery of public interests – phase 2 –

The SNH statement on the report is available here –