AROUND a fifth of Scotland's wild deer population will be culled as part of a five-year plan to protect the nation's trees. 

Officials at Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) have awarded a tender worth up to £30 million for ten regional contracts. It said the contracts would bring investment in communities across Scotland through the award of subcontracts, training and apprenticeship opportunities.

With the contracts taking effect from the end of July, contractors will have the summer months to establish themselves in the areas in readiness for culling from September onwards.

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Ian Fergusson, FLS’s head of wildlife management, said: “Scotland’s forests and timber industry are fundamental to Climate Emergency mitigation and the prevention of biodiversity loss.

“Our productive forests are additionally becoming increasingly important as a natural resource, particularly as global markets face unprecedented levels of flux and the UK is importing 80 per cent of its annual timber requirement.

“It is vital, therefore, that we continue to limit the negative environmental impacts of deer damage on our forests and fragile habitats by helping to reduce deer numbers nationally to a sustainable population level." 

Deer management will protect the 150 million young trees that at any one time on FLS land are vulnerable to damage during browsing for food.

FLS estimates that the cost of the damage done is in the region of £3m annually.

Ian added: “Awarding these contracts will have a significant positive economic impact in rural communities by supporting up to 100 jobs in the deer management sector and, through the supply of around 37,000 carcasses annually, will continue to support jobs in Scotland’s venison processing sector." 

With deer populations having doubled in 30 years and the estimated number of deer being more than one million animals across the country, FLS is looking to deliver a professional cull - on the land it manages - of more than 200,000+ deer over the next five years. This will be achieved through its dedicated in-house wildlife management staff, its new contracts and by working collaboratively with other land managers.

Deer populations have doubled in 30 years with their numbers now estimated at more than 1 million across Scotland. The planned cull will be larger than those held in previous years. Previously, contractors killed about 22,000 deer annually, or 110,000 animals over five years.