Chapter 10.2.2 Forests

Manage the nature and climate impacts of deer

Implement in full the recommendations of the Independent Deer Working Group248 report through the introduction and implementation of new deer legislation.

Scottish Govt
Local Authorities
UK Govt
Emissions reduction
Behaviour change

The over abundance of deer is a serious problem for nature and, by preventing natural tree regeneration, for climate change. The Scottish Government should introduce policies, and preferably create new legislation, which:

  1. Set statutory maximum limits for deer density on a regional basis, including a maximum of ten red deer per square kilometre density over large areas of open range in the Highlands.
  2. Strengthen NatureScot’s deer management powers, ensuring that they have sufficient, flexible enforcement powers to maintain deer populations at sustainable levels in every area of Scotland and to protect public interests. Mandatory deer count data and cull return systems administered by NatureScot are required to underpin this process.
  3. The Scottish Government and Land Commission should integrate Deer Management Groups within the Regional Land Use Framework model so that deer management is framed within the context of other social, environmental and economic priorities.
  4. Public financial support for deer fencing should be phased out. A cost-benefit analysis of delivering woodland expansion via natural regeneration and sustainable deer management, rather than by tree planting and deer fencing, should be undertaken and used to guide policy implementation.

For further information:


The management of wild deer in Scotland: Deer Working Group report, Scottish Government, 2020, management-wild-deer-scotland/

Version 1.0: September 2023

The contents of this document will be updated on a regular basis.