Deer Management

As with the rest of the Highlands, deer are an integral part of Attadale. The main species found on Attadale is the Red Deer. They can be found anywhere on the estate, from the highest peak down to sea level on the shores of Loch Carron. A few of the more delicate roe deer can also be found in the forestry blocks lower down on the estate.

The non-native Sika deer, which is rapidly spreading across Scotland, put in an occasional appearance. Like the Roe deer they tend to be much more reclusive than the Red deer and stick to the forested areas.

The summer population of Red deer is approximately 900 hinds, 500 calves and 400 stags. In the summer the deer tend to graze far inland on the estate, although some of the stags can be seen low down in the late evenings. In winter the population increases as the deer draw in from surrounding higher land to the relative shelter of Attadale. Deer can then be seen all over the estate and the stags in particular, are common all the way up the hill road and right down beside the holiday cottages.

Stalking takes place on the estate from the start of September through to the middle of February. Unlike many estates, there is no let stalking on Attadale. The estate stalker undertakes all the culling during the hind season. All the guests that go out at Attadale during the stag stalking season are friends and family. We do not let the stalking.

Deer Culling

In the past deer tended to be shot purely for sporting purposes. Stags (male deer) were shot as 'trophies', with the size and number of points on their antlers being the key factor. Any stag with six points on each antler was regarded as a 'Royal' and was highly sought after.

Today the culling of deer is based much more on the welfare of the deer herd and their impact on the surrounding habitat. A collaborative approach to their management has been developed with the formation of 'Deer Management Groups' (DMG's). These originated in the Highlands but are now found all over Scotland. These groups, which are voluntary bodies, tend to cover areas where there are distinctive herds and can range from a few to a large number of separate land holdings.

These DM Groups have completed Deer Management Plans which provide guidance for individual estates on the number of deer to be culled each year. Regular counts either by helicopter or on foot provide the data for making these decisions. In addition habitat surveys are being introduced to try and give a longer term indication of potential damage from over grazing. It is down to the professional stalkers to cull the deer.

Professional stalkers have a wealth of experience when it comes to working with deer. They have an intimate knowledge of the land on which they work and will know where to find the deer, depending on time of year and weather conditions

The priority when culling is to select the older or unhealthy animals, which would be unlikely to survive the winter. These are then shot humanely with a high velocity rifle. When a large number must be shot, a percentage of the cull will also include some healthy animals. Selection is then based on taking a few animals from each age group from the very young to the very old. This leaves a healthy mix within the herd. If a hind (female) with a calf is shot, then the calf must be shot as well. This is important as a motherless calf is rejected by the rest of the herd and is chased from the good feeding and shelter. This would lead to a slow death for the calf.

The purpose is to leave a herd of strong healthy animals for everybody to admire.

The culling seasons for Red Deer stags and hinds are different and are based on the annual life cycle of the deer.

In Scotland stags can be shot between 1st July and 20th October. Stags are in peak condition around mid-September. Towards the end of September the 'rut' begins (mating season) and their body weight rapidly drops and by the end of October they are thin and smelly from the rut and are not suitable for shooting.

Hinds can be shot between 21st October and 15th February. Hinds calve in June, so by November calves and hinds have reached their best condition following the summer. Therefore any beast that is thin or poorly at this time will certainly not survive the harsh winter and is best culled.

Out with these times the deer cannot be shot unless they are injured or are causing damage to woodland/farmland. It is illegal to shoot deer at night at any time of year unless a special license has been granted by the SNH. The laws relating to the culling of deer as well as the culling seasons differ in Scotland from England and Wales.

For more information on deer and deer stalking, please visit the following web sites:

www.deer-management.co.uk Association of Deer Management Groups

http://www.snh.gov.uk/snh-for-you/deer-managers/ Scottish Natural Heritage

www.bds.org.uk The British Deer Society

 

Deer History

The main species of deer found on Attadale is the Red Deer(Cervus elaphus).

It is believed that Red deer have existed in Scotland for at least the last 20,000 years. Prehistoric Red deer were much bigger than the deer of today. But as the ancient forests were cleared and as man began to farm, the deer retreated to the harsher, poorer environment of the Highlands and as a result the body-size declined.

The deer population has fluctuated over the past few centuries. Numbers reached their lowest ebb at the end of the 18thCentury when the Highland human population rocketed, increasing the pressure on the deer. This was followed by the introduction of sheep, which became the main industry of the area and deer were seen as a nuisance. However, as the Industrial Revolution expanded, so did individual wealth. This, along with the new developments in sporting rifles, led to a demand for hunting as a favourite pastime for the well-off. Queen Victoria's purchase of Balmoral in 1852 gave deer stalking the Royal seal of approval and made it fashionable to buy Highland Estates and build shooting lodges.

These new landowners were keen to conserve and indeed increase their deer numbers as they believed that the greater the number of deer, the greater the chance of getting good stags. Various attempts were made to control predators and stop poachers. Some landowners were so protective of their deer they even fenced their entire estate to keep the deer in. Remnants of such fences can be seen around Beinn Dronaig and along the path between Achintee and Beinn Dronaig lodge.

It was also at this time that most of the hill paths used by walkers today were constructed. Their original use was as pony paths to allow the deer carcasses to be carried home by sturdy highland ponies. Small gangs of labourers tended to be employed for the summer to maintain and expand the network. The quality of their handy work is reflected in the fact that most of these paths are still in excellent condition today.

In order to make the day's stalking as successful as possible, the lairds took on full-time stalkers whose job was to get the guest into a shootable position. This form of stalking continued right up through the war years. After World War Two, increased public concern over marauding by deer on farmland and the high levels of poaching led to an increased interest in the state of the Red deer in the Highlands.

In 1952, Frank Fraser Darling was given the task of assessing the Scottish deer population and counting began in 1953 along with the Nature Conservancy Council of Scotland. In 1959 the Red Deer Commission (today Scottish Natural Heritage) was established and was given the statutory duties of "furthering the conservation and control of Red Deer in Scotland". Statutory close seasons were introduced so that the deer could not be shot all the year round and greater penalties were introduced to reduce poaching. From then on deer stalking continued as before, but within restricted seasons and with a small input from the Red Deer Commission.

In the 1980s there were a succession of warm winters, which led to a huge increase in the numbers of deer. The level of natural mortality dropped allowing animals that normally would have died to survive the winter.

In the 1990s the green movement gained greater influence and the general public were once again interested in the environment. A few examples of poorly managed Estates were highlighted in the media and this led to outcries of eroded landscapes and degraded habitats. The deer industry has been forced to take a hard look at itself and reassess its priorities.

 

Deer management today is in transition reflecting recent legislation and changing attitudes to land management and environmental pressures. Nearly all the red deer range in the highlands is divided up into Deer Management Groups(DMGs) which in turn are members of the Association of Deer Management Groups (ADMG), a non-statutory body. ADMG have produced a DMG Benchmark which sets out what is required of a DMG so as to conform with the objective of achieving sustainable deer management. This can be seen on the ADMG web site at www.deer-management.co.uk

 Attadale is a member of the Lochalsh DMG. The other members are Inverinate, Arineckaig and part of Achnashellach. Whilst small in numbers it covers a wide area of about 100,000 acres. 

References:

1.Red Deer in the Highlands
  Clutton-Brock and Albon

2.ADMG Leaflet on Deer Management
  Assoc. Deer Management Groups


 

The Lochalsh Deer Management Plan

Lochalsh Deer Management Group have loaded their Deer Management Plan onto the website. Updates will be posted annually and a full review will take place in 2020.

 

Background to Deer Management Plan

 

In 2013, the Scottish Government Rural Affairs Climate Change and Environment Committee (RACCE) undertook a review of Deer Management in Scotland. One of the recommendations of the Committee was that the deer sector should show that the voluntary basis of deer management should be ‘fit for purpose’ and it was recommended that this should be done by the end of 2016. 

SNH and ADMG considered that ‘Effective Deer Management Plans’ for each Deer Management Group would be the best way to demonstrate this ‘fit for purpose’ recommendation and that those plans would be living plans that could evolve as management objectives changed over time.  

In 2014, a Benchmark Criteria and associated actions was designed and published by SNH and the Association of Deer Management Groups (ADMG) to help provide guidance to DMG’s on how to assess and demonstrate its effectiveness in relation to the previously produced ‘Code of Practice on Deer Management’ within a deer management plan.

The Deer Management Plan shown below for the Lochalsh Deer Management Group has addressed the actions outlined by those benchmark criteria. 

Sections 1 to 5 of the plan have provided general deer management related information on all the members of the group and section 6 has detailed how the group has achieved (or intends to achieve) the 14 Benchmark Criteria.

This will be an evolving plan which will be constantly monitored and regular updates. provided to ensure information is kept current and relevant