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Thread: Silence in the Glens; Increasingly excessive deer culling targets

  1. #1

    Unhappy Silence in the Glens; Increasingly excessive deer culling targets

    We seem to be hearing more and more in the press, stories of rising deer populations,backed up by statistics such as increasing RTA’s involving deer etc.
    Concerned deer managers, stalkers and landowners across the Scotland in particular are reporting that,as a response, deer populations are effectively being annihilated. This is being undertaken in the name of herd reductions where in fact, what is happening is near total decimation. Slaughters at Glen Affric and Mar Lodge have already made the press, but these are just a small example of a countrywide trend. Blame cannot be laid solely with Forestry concerns, as massive culls have also taken place on private estates; many citing the regeneration of grouse populations as reason . Surely our native Red Deer deserve equal conservation status as the native Red Grouse. Should we undertake to devastate one for the benefit of the other? Forestry concerns are now commonly seeking the services of contract stalkers and as sound as these people may be, to employ anyone on a bounty basis of deer culling, potentially promotes malpractice.

    Our wild deer are offered almost no protection under closed-season now and this, coupled with night shooting licenses that are being grossly misused, means that we are treating them like vermin.
    I have heard of a contract deer-culler, who amassed a tally of over one thousand head last year, amongst which were 30 ‘Royals’ in the course of this cull.

    Could it be that the iconic sound of roaring stags up the glen may soon be no more than an echo of the past?

    I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on this...and where, if aywhere we can find a satifactory answer to this very troubling trend.

  2. #2
    Have been a regular stalker on numerous estates in the Scottish highlands for many years now, and have seen the numbers of red deer in particular decline considerabley. Several estates as you say "biglobby" have changed from deer management to total deer wipeout. Many shooting twentyfour/seven. Some unfortunate estates that do want to continue the genuine sporting estate have seen their average cull stag age drop to four to five year olds with them hardly finding any old mature stags. Any hinds that are about are scared to hell and don't know where to go for saftey. I here the old stories about estates decimating the deer on a grouse moor as they are a tick carrier, over and over again, but am still not convinced that they are the sole problem. The sooner level headed thoughts and practises are brought in the better. As the old saying goes "you can only shoot something once". How lucky they are to have these beautiful animals roaming their glens and hillsides, once their gone there gone.
    Last edited by Gaz; 22-10-2011 at 17:47.

  3. #3
    Its Certainly starting to have an impact on the way Scotland is viewed abroad some european agents are advising clients that the Mid west/ cairngorms and Monadhliaths have been severely affected and the average age of stags shot by clients have dropped suggesting they try other parts of Scotland or risk disappointment.

  4. #4
    I stalk in the Argyll and Bute and this year one of the big stalking agents who I have known for several years was saying it was getting very difficult to find stags over 5 years in age for clients, thinking back I have to agree that most stags we are coming across on our lease are younger animals and have been for the last two years.

    It needs something doing IMO, what and how god knows.



  5. #5
    I'm reminded of the title of the book by Lillian Beckwith, "The hills is lonely". I seldom see deer now on my hill crossings where fifteen years ago I could predict exactly where I would see a parcel - either of stags or hinds. The hills are being denuded of deer and one ecologist actually reckoned that there were blank spaces on the hill which should be occupied by some deer. He presumably did not realise that red deer live in well organised, large family groups called parcels, and that the parcels adjacent to these empty places had been reduced so much due to the promptings of the ecologist factions that there was no necessity for those hind parcels to invade the unoccupied corners outside of their own hefted areas as there was more than adequate fodder, in quantity, on their own historical patch. Unless there was a sudden population increase - as a result of NO winter mortality, (and no matter how much herds are reduced, the late winter and early spring will take its toll). All wild populations, like the Alaskan and Canadian salmon, depend upon large polulations which can withstand the reductions created by nature, but these deaths are not wasted as they in turn provide for the carrion eaters and return nutrients to the soil.

    No natural mortality carcasses means a drastic reduction in wild creatures - right down to the smallest birds. Man's attempts to control the herds is a valuable tool, but nature will still have its share.

    Deer estates which depend upon the annual 'migration' of rutting stags which break out to wander in search of hinds have observed diminishing stag numbers as they are being shot in greater numbers on the wintering grounds, or they simply do not venture far because there are not the hind numbers to attract them in. A forest with no hinds will attract no stags unless these males are passing through to somewhere that does contain hinds, and in this case the presence of the stags will be transient as the few remaining hinds will be quickly covered and proper rutting activity will cease.

    I noticed, and commented upon the increasing emptiness of the hills some years ago, but now the problem is becoming all too evident, even to visiting clients.

    A lot of this problem comes down, not to overgrazing by deer which has been one of the main excuses for over-shooting, but a desire on the part of certain bodies to regain over a short period, that which they believed was the landscape of Scotland hundreds of years ago, and in this effort, and I predict, to revert the bulk of the wilder parts of Scotland into one giant national park - policed by " whom? " and for the edification of what ? Tourists ?! They are perfectly willing to denude the hills of deer, literally treating them as vermin, and also removing yet another form of indigenous employment - stalking and ghillieing.

    So far there's no real reaction to the denudation of the hills by burning with dropped matches in order to facilitate sheep grazing as this would be a political minefield populated by crofters and sheep farmers. It is much easier to target the big bad landlord and the deer on his lands; both of which have been turned into something a bit politically incorrect.

    I can show anyone a deer fence above a main road which very adequately indicates the type of animal on either side. On one side where sheep are grazed the herbage is at a limit of four inches and soiled with droppings and urine. On the other side where there are only deer, the same herbage is knee-high and grazed in a clean and selective manner.
    Opinions often differ according to unknown circumstances.

  6. #6
    The population of reds around my bit in Sutherland was smashed by the FC and contractors 2 years ago. I'm not aware of the local policy but I bet it's about fat numbers. 3 years ago I would park and glass multiple good sized groups of deer at this time of year out on the open ground to the front of mine where as now I don't see more than a handful if I'm lucky. The harsh winter a couple of years ago pushed large numbers together near the roadside of some FC ground less than a km from mine and then as if by magic they were gone.

    I wouldn't mind so much if they were a problem but one of the FC rangers told me that the deer damage was below their targets.

  7. #7
    Having stalked on the same Scottish estate for many years, we have witnessed a fairly dramatic decline in the numbers of mature stags over the last two or three. Whilst the extremes of winter weather may have played a part over this period, I suspect that the two large areas bordering the estate, under the jurisdiction of the Forestry Commission and their systems of deer management (including the introduction of contractors-in addition to their pre-existing rangers) may have a larger part to play. This has also had an effect on the number of stalking clients coming to the estate. If this trend continues we will have no clients (benefitting the local economy) but we will also have no deer.
    I really feel that this cannot be allowed to continue on this downward spiral, surely there must be someone in a position of authority we can approach to make our voices heard and reverse this worrying trend?
    Any ideas?

  8. #8
    The deer world and especially those who work within it are a fickle lot!

    I note with much hilarity Gaz, the picture on your Avatar. I know exactly where that landrover is parked and I was the neighbouring Headkeeper for a number of years, I chuckle that the Keeper who owned the landrover in the pic, absolutely slated me for shooting big stags, yet I never shot one as big as the 1 in your pic!!!!!

    It is sad that many Estates are stuggling and I have been a victim of this trend , however Scottish Estates have been their own worst enemy in many cases. It is very easy to blame SNH, FCS etc but at the end of the day, "who sold the land to FCS?". How many Estates actualy entered into the Deer management group system with an open mind?

    I agree, we need top take a new approach, but anyone thinking that in this day and age, a sporting estate will sustain it's self through let stalking alone is in a dream world.

    Grouse moors are taking a very hard line on deer and grouse bags are showing this approach is working. If you are going to dictate to those East coast owners on how they are to manage deer are you then any better than the ScotGov Beurocrats?

  9. #9
    Correct bambislayer. I doubt if a deer forest estate could pay for itself through stalking lets. The age old saying was that running a deer forest was like standing in a shower tearing up ten pound notes, but even within Scotland there are substantial differences in weather patterns between east and west so it would be wrong for any of us to generalise on what's best right across the board.
    Private ownership by a caring landlord is the cheapest form of land maintenance there is to the taxpayer - and the taxpayer now has the right to roam. Even seasonal clients will help alleviate a little of the cost.
    I doubt, for the present, than many west coast forests could raise and support commercially shootable numbers of grouse as it's simply much too wet and chilly - especially during the critical hatching season which I suspect is a breath-holding gamble at best.
    As it is, heavily shot deer herds on the west are further endangered by wickedly wet and chilly early springs which creates a substantial mortality in the last-years flush of calves. This has nothing to do with the amount of grub available as the herds have been radically reduced, but it is all about weather - and perhaps the nutritional content, or lack, in the fodder intake.

    There's nothing that can be done regarding the nutritional value, (Other than bought-in winter feeding), and the deer have evolved to cope with it, so shelter and warmth must be the remaining key, and the deer are, in many cases, shot out of that.
    It has been shown on one West highland estate that the 'feeder' stags did not in fact do better than their non-feeder cousins on the hill. The feeder stags remained largely where they were awaiting the next sweetie handout, but here we are in a cleft-stick situation as feeding might help ease an older beast through for the shot the following season - which might otherwise have died that spring.

    I also agree with the comment on not ALL estates joining in on their deer management groups with an open mind. Some certainly did not but had private agendas of their own whilst paying public lip service. Some continued with the attitude that they were above it all and would do exactly what they pleased, and it was these people who put the wedges in the door which allowed various parties to say, "Look, it's not working and they are misbehaving".
    Then the ill concealed threats of contract shooter incursion began and the more amenable estates did their best to comply whilst a 'carrot and stick' offer was put on the table.

    Now for the question - the one similar to that made by the little boy in the children's story book who exclaimed that, "Look ! The King has no clothes on".
    To what end is this shooting all about ? I walk on the hill and all I see is useless waving molinnia grass which falls over and dies on itself, strangling the remaining herbage underneath and creating a coat of cover for voles and other rodents so that habitual rodent hunters on the wing cannot see them. Nothing is benefitting, the hills are almost derelict, there are many fewer large herbivore animals to dung and fertilise the ground, there are no carcasses to feed the dependent carrion eaters - martens, foxes, badgers, eagles, buzzards. Many less dung and carrion beetles and flies upon which all sorts of small mammals live such as shrews.
    Hoooray ! sez the anti carrion-eater trapper. But think a minute. Every single animal and insect is a link in the ecological chain, and without the carnivores there would be NO trapper - in these days - mostly shooting-by-lamp. Wityhout a base reason there is no requirement for employment of a vermin control person or the hobbyist shooter.
    Without our largest herbivore the hills will become much less for everyone and everything. What on earth does this wanton killing do for anyone when there are no discenible benefits from it's aftermath?
    Opinions often differ according to unknown circumstances.

  10. #10
    If more private estates were to provide better habitat/shelter for the deer which use their ground, perhaps they would have less mortalities and fewer deer would need to risk the bullet by going into forestry plantations.

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