GAMEKEEPERS have claimed that an upcoming cull of female deer in Scotland could leave orphaned fawns to starve if their mothers are killed.

Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) carries out a licensed cull of deer in September as part of its management of the deer population in Scotland, which has doubled to over 1 million in the past 30 years.

According to FLS the cull is necessary for woodland creation, with the damage caused by deer costing the government agency an estimated £3 million each year.

However, the vice chairman of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, Peter Fraser, has criticised FLS, claiming that there was “no thought put into creating forests which are designed for deer control". 

He said: "I have been managing deer a long time and youngsters will be left, no question.

"In forestry, even in a clearing, you will get one shot and the mother will be off into cover.

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"You might shoot a baby but then lose the mother and a twin so matching mothers and youngsters in family groups then becomes difficult thereafter.

"In areas like the west, deer managers will be encountering bracken 6ft or 7ft high regularly. It is very difficult to get deer out of cover like that.

"I don't see the point of this cull when they could wait a few weeks more and get the job done more effectively, without the animal welfare implications."

But Mike Daniels, speaking on behalf of the Scottish Environment Deer Group, said: “Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) delivers first-class deer management across their national forests and land to high environmental and animal welfare standards.”

“We fully support FLS and have every confidence that the work will be carried out to these standards.”

Fraser added that the problems associated with deer stem from mismanagement by FLS.

He said: “Forest damage is so high in Scotland today because, for years, FLS policy has meant that they have shot the wrong animals at the wrong time.

"There has been no selection and no thought put into creating forests which are designed for deer control."

"FLS are not going to be able to reverse years of mismanagement overnight but all new forests should contain design features for deer control."

More than 200,000 deer are set to be culled over the next five years, which represents around a fifth of the total population in Scotland.

A NatureScot spokesperson said: "Deer welfare is key and NatureScot takes into account the period of greatest welfare risk based on the dependency of young, which in Scotland is the period between April 1 to August 31.

"This period is based on commissioned research into birthing and weaning dates of all species Scotland wide.

“During this period strict controls are in place when female deer can only be culled under a specific authorisation from NatureScot. These are only granted in exceptional circumstances.

"Outwith this period of highest welfare concern, from September 1 out-of-season control can only be undertaken under authorisation by NatureScot.

"Anyone controlling deer under such authorisation must be assessed as fit and competent, must follow the Wild Deer Best Practice Guidance and ensure they have safeguards in place when they are culling."