Weather takes its toll on deer population

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The Association of Deer Management Groups is warning that, given the recent cold spell and conditions through the winter, there is a possibility of higher deer mortality this spring than in recent milder winters.

Richard Cooke, chairman of the Association of Deer Management Groups, said: ‘We have heard from some deer management groups that deer in their areas were found to be in poor condition during the hind season and this cold spell will be hard for them, particularly if it now turns wet.

‘Often it is the past few weeks before the grass starts to appear on the hill that leads to losses, particularly of last year’s calves. Also mature stags which use up most of their body condition in the breeding season in the preceding October and November can succumb. Hinds tend to be more resilient. The thinner-skinned roe deer are also susceptible to hard weather.

‘Winter losses are a natural process for wild deer, particularly in a year such as this but, by selectively removing the older and poorer individuals, management culling undoubtedly reduces natural mortality.

‘The Scottish red deer population is now beginning to decline due to culling efforts, as found in the James Hutton Institute report to SNH in 2017, and the overall health status of our red deer is generally good and within the carrying capacity of their range, but hard weather takes its toll as it does on all birdlife and wildlife.

‘Our request to the hill-going public is please to give deer a wide berth to avoid imposing further stress. Also, we would urge particular caution on the roads as deer naturally seek shelter on lower ground in hard times and are a potential hazard for motorists.’

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