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08 December, 2017

SNH outlines how it supports estates with deer culling with helicopter transport

SNH staff, working in partnership with estates all over Scotland, regularly uses helicopters for counting and to assist with deer culling. In the last few years, we have helped transport stalkers by helicopter to cull deer in a variety of locations in  North Ross, Kintail, West Grampians, East Grampian,  as well as to some of our own properties.

Eileen Stuart, SNH’s Head of Policy & Advice, said:

"Managing wild deer in Scotland's hills is extremely challenging. A number of estates have asked us to help them use helicopters to take stalkers to remote areas. These areas are suffering from levels of deer browsing, which affect how sensitive habitats thrive and grow.  This helps allow estates to achieve their deer management objectives and get deer numbers in balance with their environment. We make sure that those taking part are trained to the highest standards of safety and deer welfare."

This year, a number of areas came forward looking for help with their hind culls, which we were happy to support.  This helps us to promote practical, collaborative working between estates. Specifically, this work :

  • Supports deer management groups achieve locally-agreed cull targets to improve habitat condition.
  • Allows land managers to target deer in remote areas where access and carcass extraction is difficult and is a barrier to delivering cull targets.
  • Demonstrates and promotes collaborative working approaches to deer management.
  • Raises awareness and understanding of the use of helicopters in deer management to transport stalkers and extract carcasses.

This partnership work helps estates achieve agreed cull targets with robust safety training, procedures and risk assessments. As a result, most of the deer are culled by estate staff and all of the carcasses go through the normal carcass handling processes,  through a game dealer to provide healthy venison.

It’s unfortunate that some of the recent media coverage focusses on photographs of a culling operation from 14 years ago,  which is very different to what happens today and was carried out in very different circumstances.

This type of exercise is a part of a package of work where SNH is supporting collaborative approaches to deliver sustainable deer management. We will seek to continue to work with the SGA committee to better explore their concerns, but we’re committed to working with their membership and the Association of Deer Management Groups to meet the needs and demands of deer management in Scotland today.

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