Mar 2 2012
The over-culling of deer is putting rural jobs and livelihoods at risk, gamekeepers have warned.
The Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) said Scotland is "laying its greatest wildlife assets to waste" by increasing culling to support reforestation. It urged the Scottish Government to rethink "aggressive deer culling policies" now before it is too late.
Peter Fraser, author of a new study, said a "national scandal" is playing out on Scotland's hills.
He said: "Scotland is laying its greatest wildlife assets to waste without considering the consequences. And it may already be too late in some places to prevent the devastation from being permanent."
Mr Fraser claimed that the future well-being of red deer has reached a tipping point. He said: "Over-ambitious and ill-thought forestry or conservation projects are the longest running culprits and carnages continuing to be carried out in numerous locations in the name of protecting unfenced natural regeneration."
The study, compiled over three years in Sutherland, showed that money from deer stalking and management currently supports 140 households and 112 full-time jobs.
Mr Fraser acknowledged the need for deer herds to be kept at realistic levels in Scotland to balance differing countryside objectives.
However, the SGA said there was a clear difference between the culling targets and practices on sporting estates, where stalkers consider the age structure of the herd, and those in Scotland's forest regeneration areas where it said notable examples of over-culling have taken place.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: "We believe that it is important to strike a balance between land use objectives such as forestry and deer stalking, while ensuring that all deer management is carried out to the highest animal welfare standards.
"To this end, the Scottish Parliament recently approved a new Code of Practice which is designed to help land managers resolve differences in land use objectives and to collaborate on deer management issues."