Here’s another article which has a pop at the Forestry Commission for continuing to cull through the winter as deer herds push into FC woodlands to find food and shelter.
As easy as it is to slag the FC, I actually sympathise with it as it has to protect trees throughout the year otherwise face hefty re-planting costs and degraded timber crops. Better fencing would help the trees, but that wouldn’t help the deer, just move the problem elsewhere. The FC can’t win. I suppose private woodland owners are in a similar position. You only get one chance to establish a quality tree crop so any forester worth his salt wants deer numbers pegged back to minimal levels until the crop is hardy enough to allow deer densities to pick up again.
Private landowners (sporting estates) are more fortunate as they can choose to sacrifice tree quality for the sake of deer in hard weather, but even they would not risk ruining a young woodland that is still within a grant aided forestry scheme.
My view is that the best way to maintain a healthy herd is to provide food and shelter in strategic locations throughout an estate. Native woodland cover fits the bill nicely. I have been involved in woodland establishment in the highlands for over 20years now and I am now seeing some of “my” earlier plantings opened up to deer and I suspect the deer are pretty pleased with the results.
There is a push at the moment to reduce deer numbers across Scotland so my advice is that sporting estates will have to look at ways to support a decent herd through diligent habitat management or run the risk of losing out in the long run. Relying on the FC to provide winter shelter is not an option.
Now before anyone thinks that I have little regard for deer please note that I enjoy stalking and believe that it is an essential part of the rural economy in Scotland, however I also believe that the current situation is not sustainable and deer managers would do well to plan ahead with both environment and the deer herd in mind. This may well require some short term pain but the results will be well worth it.