Thursday, 12 July 2018


*The SGA is delighted to hear news of wader success in Strathbraan in 2018. The SGA is providing technical support to the SGA members within the control area.

Land managers in Strathbraan are predicting an excellent year for endangered waders following the granting of measures to protect vulnerable chicks from predation.
Farmers and gamekeepers were granted a license from Scottish Natural Heritage to control juvenile flocks of predatory ravens in a bid to protect birds such as Curlew; now classed the UK’s most urgent conservation priority.
Breeding Curlew populations have crashed by half in the UK in 25 years and, across Europe, the estimated breeding success per pair is only 0.34 chicks per nest- not enough to prevent further declines.*
The management trial, which allowed up to 69 ravens to be taken this year, was controversial in some quarters, despite frequent and widely accepted observations of chick predation by marauding raven flocks.
Anecdotal reports on the ground suggest the additional protection afforded to the wader chicks has already paid dividends this year.
Strathbraan has seen the rare and welcome sight of nests fledging four Curlew chicks this year, leading to optimism that productivity counts will demonstrate much needed relief for the embattled birds.
Encouragingly, raven predation pressure seems to have been low this year, with fewer than half permitted under the license, having been taken.
“There is a definite upsurge this year in the waders,” said local gamekeeper Ronnie Kippen, whose ground falls within the licensed area. “We have barely seen a pair of Curlew without chicks.
“Oystercatchers are roughly the same as we observe but Curlew and Lapwing have made a big shift. The hens were in good breeding condition but the chicks have been much better protected.
“The ravens have got clever, which we anticipated, plus they have not been able to build up enough in numbers to cause the damage this time.
“That was the main problem last year; ravens coming in and hammering the chicks on the floor of the glen.
“I think we would be very surprised, next year, if we did not see high numbers return from the wintering ground, given the sheer amount of chicks we have put away successfully this year.”
While wading bird numbers have plummeted in the UK, ravens have benefitted from full legal protection. Their numbers have doubled since 1994 while Curlew have declined 46 percent in 25 years.
Low breeding success is cited as the principal reason for Curlew population decline.
A recent Scottish Government funded multi-party report, Understanding Predation, concluded that ravens were predators of ground nesting birds and that bold and urgent conservation measures were required to save red-listed waders.
*Roodbergen M, et al. Journal of Ornithology 2012; 153: 53–74.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Letter Of Thanks From Gamekeepers Welfare Trust

Dear All

Thank you very much to everyone who could attend yesterday Sunday 1st July on the GWCT stand and to GWCT for kindly hosting our gathering on a very hot afternoon – it is not easy getting away from stands and we do appreciate your time and support.

I hope you will agree we are off to a great start in achieving the aims and objectives we set out at our meeting at The Borders College.

Please could you contact your relevant departments to organise incorporating the Stag training course on your websites and contact me as to requirements i.e. logos, images etc.  This is very important in ensuring that everyone knows that you all support our initiative and delegates can easily access information to book their places.

Please feel free to circulate our group photo on any of your social media platforms which I hope to receive shortly and will forward.

Thank you very much indeed.

Helen M J Benson
Gamekeepers Welfare Trust
Keepers Cottage West Tanfield Ripon North Yorkshire HG4 5LE
Office:  01677 470180
Jamies Helpline: 0300 1233088

Saturday, 30 June 2018


Scotland’s young gamekeeper of 2018 was crowned at Scone Palace on Friday (29th), fringed by veterans with nearly 200 years of combined land management experience.
It was generation game on day one of Scottish Game Fair as Craig Hepburn (22) was declared Young Gamekeeper of the Year, an award presented by The Scottish Gamekeepers Association.
Selected from a final shortlist of 3, the highlander, who works at Candacraig Estate, was presented with first prize by SGA Vice Chairman Peter Fraser and NFUS Vice President Martin Kennedy.
Also receiving the inaugural SGA long service medals were four stalwarts still employed after over 40 years of managing Scotland’s countryside.
Hamish Ferguson (76), Michael Ewen (64), Lea McNally (66) and ‘nipper’ of the quartet, Colin Espie (63) received specially engraved medals for unbroken service.
SGA Vice Chairman Peter Fraser said: “It is great to see ambassadors, spanning the generations, being recognised. In Scotland’s Year of Young People, we have Craig- in his early career- standing shoulder to shoulder with individuals whose passion and devotion to good land and river management are examples to all.
“Scotland is internationally renowned for its landscape and it is the gamekeepers, farmers, ghillies and land managers, with their hours of toil and care, at the frontline.
“These professions and the skills and stewardship required bring people to Scotland, put food on tables, sustain fragile wildlife and keep young people and opportunity in our glens.
“The SGA is delighted to honour Craig, Hamish, Michael, Lea and Colin for the part they have played, and will continue to play, in a major success story for Scotland.”
Craig completed Modern Apprenticeship and NC qualifications in gamekeeping at North Highland College UHI before becoming beat keeper at Candacraig in 2014.
Despite being a 6th generation gamekeeper, Craig’s progressive outlook, education work with youngsters, commitment and early promotion to second position impressed judges.
“Gamekeeping is in the family blood,” said Craig. “I think gamekeepers today, as well as working hard, have to do their bit in education so the public understand more about what we do and the benefits of that.”
At the opposite end of the seniority scale, stalker and gamekeeper Hamish Ferguson was honoured for 61 years of service, starting at Balmoral in 1957 and continuing today at Glenogil Estate, Angus.
Stalker Lea MacNally’s 40 years of helping clients pursue the ‘Monarch of the Glen’ at Glenquoich landed him a medal, while Colin Espie’s 47 years at Glen Tanar Estate guiding guests in stalking and landing the ‘king of fish’ was rewarded.
Michael Ewen, who started out as a ghillie on the Spey in December 1969, collected his prize, admitting he never imagined he’d still be on the Rothes beat 48 years on.
“I didn’t think much about it,” he said, “I always loved fishing. The opportunity came up and I took it. I think today’s young ghillies move jobs more. I suppose it is quite rare these days to be in one place, or one job, so long but we have been lucky with our guests.

“The Spey is a big employer and it’s vital we do all we can to ensure we still have fish in future.”

Thursday, 28 June 2018


The SGA will be delighted to welcome our special guest Martin Kennedy, Vice President of NFUS, to our stand at the GWCT Scottish Game Fair tomorrow (Friday).
Martin will be helping to present the awards for Young Gamekeeper of the Year and for Long Service on Friday and will also be chatting to members of the SGA committee regarding various issues affecting countryside practitioners.
The SGA has pledged to support the Dogs on Leads campaign, which may result in a members bill being put forward to Holyrood by Emma Harper MSP.
Dog attacks on livestock is a growing problem for farmers and hill shepherds and unruly dogs also pose a threat to wildlife at crucial breeding times.
It is hoped that changes to the Land Reform Act may mirror some of these widespread concerns.
SGA reps will also be discussing other issues of common interest with Martin and look forward to giving him a warm welcome on the stand at Scone.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018


The SGA Charitable Trust is delighted to announce its new partnership with award winning Angus artisan drinks company, Gin Bothy, and Angus Glens Moorland Group (AGMG).
The partnership deal will see £1 from every bottle of new Gin Bothy Sloe Gin split between the groups to help highlight the benefits responsible gamekeeping has for conservation, cultural heritage and supporting rural communities.
Gin Bothy owner Kim Cameron grew up in a rural community herself and has fond memories of shoot-day beating in Glenisla as a child.
The company wanted to mark its appreciation of the role guardians of the land play in shaping Scotland’s iconic countryside.
Gin Bothy prides itself in producing botanical ‘hip flask’ gins, perfect for hill, river or lunch bothy. Already highly popular with the hunting, shooting and fishing community, they also produce Gunshot and Speycast gins, hand-bottled and numbered at their premises outside Kirriemuir.
The new gin will be launched at GWCT Scottish Game Fair, with Kim offering’ tasters’ at the SGA tent for visitors, along with SGA and AGMG reps.
Bottles will also be on sale at the Food Hall.
The SGA Charitable Trust intends to use donated funds for education purposes, demonstrating the role predator management can play in sustaining endangered wading species such as Curlew.
Also on the SGA stand this year will be representatives from North Highland College UHI, Thurso, and stand regulars, CIC Trophy Measuring UK.

Find out more about Gin Bothy, here:
Find out about Angus Glens Moorland Group, here:

*Scottish Gamekeepers Association Charitable Trust, Registered in Scotland Charity number SC386844

Kim Cameron grew up beating on shoot days as a youngster.


The SGA is delighted to announce that out 2019 diaries and calendars have arrived and will be available for the first time at the GWCT Scottish Game Fair this weekend.
Shipments arrived at the SGA HQ in time for the show and they will be packed up with all the rest of our merchandise range, bound for the SGA tent at Scone.
Diaries, always a popular choice with members and supporters, will cost £5 while our top selling calendars can be purchased at £8; this year featuring a firm favourite: our fabulous (and now better protected in the field thanks to a sensible, workable law change) working dogs.
As well as browsing our range of merchandise, visitors to the stand will be able to purchase tickets for the 2018 SGA ATV raffle with Polaris and our one-off promotion with Nomad UK for the multi-featured, multi-functional Cabar Feidh deer stalking smock. 
Not going to the fair, you can buy tickets without leaving your armchair by going online to our safeshop. See here:

Tuesday, 26 June 2018


Team SGA is gearing up for the 30th GWCT Scottish Game Fair, which starts on Friday (29th).
As ever, the stand will be busy, with several important activities and announcements due to take place over the course of the three days of the fair.
First up, on Friday, is the awarding of the coveted SGA Young Gamekeeper of the Year prize 2018 and the inaugural presentation of our new long service medals, celebrating individuals who have given 40 years of unbroken service to gamekeeping, stalking or ghillie-ing.
These presentations will take place at 11am on Friday 29th June at the SGA tent and the committee would like to see as many people in the tent as possible for the presentations, to show appreciation for the individuals- at very different stages of their careers- whose management and approach have made them examples within their field.
The SGA Young Gamekeeper of the Year prize is a cherished accolade and recognises an individual whose management, attitude, adherence to the law and best practice and their ability to advocate the benefits of good land or river management make them a youthful ambassador for the profession.
All in all, the SGA will be presenting 5 awards and Chairman Alex Hogg and special guests (to be announced shortly) are very much looking forward to the hand-over.
As well as disclosing our special guests, we will have a major partnership announcement to make prior to Friday which is set to add an exciting new dimension to the SGA presence at Scone this year.
Roll on the fair!

Friday, 8 June 2018


Despite running snaring courses for several years now, the SGA- as a Scottish Government-approved snare training provider- continues to train future users in best practice snaring.

Courses like the one this week in Perth (see picture), continue to be well attended and the organisation is pleased to see a high level of awareness regarding the necessity for the humane use of  fox snares in the countryside.

The Snares (Training) (Scotland) Order 2015 looked at the welfare issues surrounding the setting of snares. This resulted in all those wishing to operate snares legally in Scotland being compulsorily trained to do so, with the welfare of the animal being paramount.

One of the organisations approved by Scottish Government to deliver training was The Scottish Gamekeepers Association. To date, the SGA reports that it has trained over 600 of its own members and over 200 non-members out of the 1500+ individuals in total who have been accredited to operate snares legally in Scotland. 

Proportionate to the numbers of individuals trained to use snares, there have been very few recorded prosecutions connected to the misuse of snares by individuals who have been properly trained and whose fox or rabbit snares carry the necessary personal identification tag which must be obtained from Police Scotland.

Snares are a legal management tool deployed for the control of abundant foxes which predate ground nesting birds, some of which have suffered declines of almost 50 per cent in recent years and are now regarded a national conservation priority.

Snares, when set in accordance with the law, can be deployed in areas and at other times of the year where alternative methods are not effective. High vegetation in summer months and areas of extremely rough terrain are examples of situations where snares are the most effective method for fox control. Similarly, when set legally, the snare acts as a restraining device until the target animal can be despatched or any non target species can be released unharmed. Scientists also deploy snares to safely capture animals they intend to fit with radio tags.

To find out about future snare training courses, please keep in touch with our website and social media pages.

Thursday, 7 June 2018


The 2018 SGA Young Scottish Gamekeeper of the Year nomination period closes next Friday (15th June).

SGA Chairman Alex Hogg and the Committee encourages all college lecturers, Head Gamekeepers, and Estate managers to put forward an inspiring youngster who is either in education and on placement or in the early stages of a career in gamekeeping, gillie-ing or deer stalking or as a wildlife manager or ranger.
The prize is one of the most coveted in the game sector and the label of an 'SGA Young Gamekeeper of the Year' award winner is an excellent addition to the CV of any early years professional.
The annual prize recognises individuals who, by their management and attitude, are a credit to the profession. Adherence to the law and best practice and the ability to work hard and learn are vital assets for candidates as well as being able advocates of the benefit of responsible game management to many species, on hill or riverbank.
Please send final entries to with the subject line of 'SGA Young Gamekeeper of the Year'.
The financial prize, plus award, will be presented in the SGA tent at GWCT Scottish Game Fair on Friday 29th June by SGA Chairman Alex Hogg and special guests from NFU Scotland.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018


In response to a story released this morning by RSPB regarding the loss of transmission from 2 satellite tags worn by Hen Harriers, the SGA has released the following statement to media.
A Spokesman for The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: “We sincerely hope these 2 birds will be found. As an organisation, there are very few full-time gamekeepers in the Moffat area for us to make inquiries. If the public know anything they should contact Police on 101.
“The loss of tag transmission in Angus, like the tag in Moffat, merits further, independent, investigation. There has been a commitment in Angus over the last few years to changing past reputations. The high numbers of raptors on local moors are proof of that and the first Harrier breeding attempt for some time, last year, in the region was a sign of progress. We know talks have been held between sporting estates regarding translocating a pair of breeding Harriers so those on the ground will be seeking further evidence and an accountable explanation regarding this loss of satellite tag transmission.”

Thursday, 17 May 2018


The SGA would like to remind members and supporters that time is running out to submit entries for our three main organisational awards for 2018.
Nominations for the newly inaugurated Long Service medals have defied all expectations with no fewer than 6 individuals meeting the criteria of 40 or more years of active and continuous service.
If we have missed anyone, please ensure their feats are recognised by getting nominations into the SGA office before the closing date of May 31st 2018.
The medals and framed certificates will be presented at the 30th GWCT Scottish Game Fair at Scone Palace grounds on Friday 29th June
and Moy Highland Fieldsports Fair on Friday 3rd August
The SGA will be represented at both events this summer.
Also being presented at Scone will be our coveted Young Gamekeeper of the Year Award 2018.
This prize is one of the leading annual accolades in the game sector and recognises those undergoing learning or in early career stage who demonstrate a flair for sustainable management and a care and passion for their profession.
Nominations will be accepted from college lecturers, estates, fellow professionals or peers and should be sent into the SGA office before the closing date of Friday 15th June.
Being a Young Gamekeeper winner will help any young professional in their career as they move forward, and there is also a cash prize and merchandise at stake.
Despite the name, nominations are welcome for stalkers, wildlife managers, rangers and river or land ghillies.
Finally, the Ronnie Rose Award for conservation and education, in memory of the late SGA advocate, deer manager, forester and author, attracts a rich pool of entries annually.
This year’s prize is the 4th and several strong nominations have already been received, suggesting a hard choice for the judges on the committee and the Rose family.
Please submit all nominations by the closing date of Friday 20th July.
Anyone can nominate an individual or individuals who, by their efforts, have demonstrated a commitment to conservation, wildlife management and/or education on hill, low ground or river.
To recap on last year’s prize, which was presented at Moy by Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing MSP,

Monday, 23 April 2018


The Curlew is regarded as the UK's most pressing conservation concern
The Scottish Gamekeepers Association has backed the granting of a research license by SNH in Perthshire to control abundant raven populations in an urgent bid to save crashing wading bird numbers.
The licensing authority has granted a 5 year research license to the Strathbraan Community Collaboration for Waders in a bid to save birds such as the Curlew, now described as the UK’s most pressing conservation concern.
Curlew numbers have crashed by 62 percent in only two decades and fears have been raised that the distinctive and evocative call of the bird could soon be lost forever.
The local community, representing farmers, gamekeepers and private interests, contacted SNH after participating in Scottish Government’s multi-party ‘Understanding Predation’ project which brought all rural stakeholders together and concluded that urgent and bold action was now necessary if waders were to be saved.
After over a year of bird counts and other discussions, a research license has been drafted which will initially permit the cull of up to 69 ravens in a geographically defined control area to relieve predation pressure on waders such as Curlew, Lapwing and Plover at breeding time.
The license, and any proposed raven management numbers, will be adapted each year depending on regular ground counts of both ravens and wading birds.
SNH has attached conditions to ensure the license will pose no threat to raven populations which have risen by 134 percent in the UK in only two decades.
Over many years local land managers in the area have witnessed flocks of juvenile ravens, sometimes numbering over 30, picking off wader chicks and eggs at breeding time; evidence submitted to the Understanding Predation project.
Campaigners have attacked the plans, launching a petition over the weekend.
Alex Hogg, Chairman of The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: “The reality is no number of keyboard petitions will save the Curlew. Only action will. The practical land managers, who have shared their land with these birds for decades know the time for talk is long over.
“Scottish Government’s Understanding Predation project brought together natural science and local knowledge with the common aim of saving these birds.
“Raptor workers, RSPB, farmers, gamekeepers and everyone with a stake in the countryside agreed in countless workshops that urgent and bold action was now necessary. Adaptive management was identified as one of the tools to save the Curlew and other wading birds whose populations have crashed dramatically. There is no point in reaching those conclusions then failing to act. This licence is a positive action to address a known problem before it is too late.”
He added: “The combined field knowledge of farmers and gamekeepers, gleaned over centuries, is no less valid than other science on this issue.
“Managed moorland and farmland in Strathbraan has been identified as key sites for many wader populations. Even then, losses have been evident, with predation by ravens regularly observed by land managers in the area, with juvenile flocks of 20s and 30s hoovering up chicks and eggs at breeding time.
“SNH deserve credit for working with the community to design a research license to ensure the conservation status of the raven is safeguarded while allowing an assessment of the level of enhanced protection waders could receive in the area by reducing the predation by ravens.” 
A Spokesperson for Strathbraan Community said: “Farmers and keepers in the community have for a number of years identified ravens as a predators of wading bird eggs and chicks, particularly at breeding time. The people here are proud of the number of waders they have locally and their contribution to the numbers nationally. 
“Some of the local land managers were part of the Scottish Government’s Understanding Predation project which brought together conservationists, scientists, government bodies and practical folk to identify what was causing the sharp declines in population of waders across Britain and what might be done to protect those we still have.

“By approaching SNH we have agreed a community licence which will help tell us about ways to protect the waders and conserve ravens. This licence will also allow us to limit the effects of ravens predating on sheep and lambs at this time of the year.”

Tuesday, 17 April 2018


Thirteen Perthshire gamekeepers have assisted Police Scotland in searching for a sea eagle after learning the bird’s satellite tag stopped working in a local glen.
Estates were informed of the loss of signal from the bird’s tag and offered their co-operation with ground searches after heavy snows around the area in recent weeks.
Yesterday, the gamekeepers accompanied Police and RSPB officials in searching areas of moorland and woodland several kilometres west of Dunkeld in the hope of finding either the bird or the tag device.
Two sea eagles have been seen in the glen since the tag stopped functioning and Golden eagles are also regularly sighted in the skies above the moors and low ground farmland.
The gamekeepers’ national body, The Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA), has asked anyone locally with any information or sightings to contact Police Scotland.
Unknown individuals were seen by gamekeepers quartering and searching the area, days ahead of yesterday’s (Tues) search, and may know something of value to the investigation.
SGA Chairman Alex Hogg said: “When learning about the bird, the gamekeepers- working in the area around where the sea eagle’s tag was reported to have last signalled- were keen to assist the Police and immediately offered their help in the searches. There has been a lot of snow drifts in the area recently which has obviously made searching problematic, logistically.
“The gamekeepers want the bird found, if it has perished. They are first to be accused when any bird of prey goes missing, or a tag stops, so these guys want to find the bird and assist the Police in every way they can.
“They have also pledged to search other areas in the vicinity over the coming days and report to Police. With some tags, there can be hours between one signal and the next so the location of the last bleep is only an indication of where the bird was. Eagles are capable of covering considerable distances in a short space of time. If anyone else has any information on this, they should contact Police Scotland.”
Sea eagles, reintroduced to Scotland, rely on carrion for food, especially in winter.

A study of pellets of young eagles by Leitch and Watson showed 40 percent contained sheep, deer and goats, 48 percent comprised rabbits and hares and 12 percent consisted of birds such as ducks, seabirds, gulls and grouse.

Monday, 9 April 2018


Friday, 6 April 2018


Picture credit: SNH.
Gamekeepers fingered in a controversial mountain hare film have sent an open invitation to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to learn about hare management on their ground.
Last week BBC Scotland aired a film obtained covertly by animal rights campaigners showing what they described as ‘military style’ hare culls.
The broadcast led to the First Minister describing the practices in the film as ‘unacceptable’ during First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood.
Now gamekeepers in the film have written to the First Minister to invite her to the highlands to see first-hand why the hare management is carried out.
They feel it is wrong for Government to obligate land managers to control deer populations then leave high populations of hares to graze the same habitats.
A number of protected sites exist on the ground and gamekeepers possess correspondence from statutory agencies outlining the value of their control of grazing in improving site condition.
Transparent records showing hares taken compared to population numbers will be made available to the First Minister, with Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham also being invited to the highlands.
Head Gamekeeper for one of the estates concerned, Duncan MacKenzie, said: “We’d really like to be able to show the First Minister around rather than discuss these issues in Edinburgh. I think it would be beneficial for everyone to get an understanding of why the hares need to be managed, here.
“We had SNH out a few years ago to see how the hare populations were being controlled. We invited them out recently also, so nothing is being hidden.
“We have good records of the amount of hares in comparison to the amount we have taken off the hill, covering a number of years, and there are still high numbers of hares on the ground.
“What the footage by the anti grouse-moor campaigners showed was working people being
secretly filmed carrying out a legal management activity which is no different to other forms of species management and is well within the laws passed by Scottish Government.
“The ironic thing is that those who are seeking the end of grouse management would also be signalling the beginning of the end for the mountain hare in Scotland.
“Populations are thriving on grouse moors but are struggling badly elsewhere due to predation and loss of their preferred heather habitat and we hope to have the opportunity to explain this in full to the First Minister.”
New methods of counting mountain hares were published by SNH on 26th January and those methods are to be adopted by the estates to inform all future hare management operations.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018


A carer in East Kilbride has turned pioneer by introducing disadvantage kids in South Lanarkshire to the wonders of the wild deer that find a home on the city fringes.
David Quarrell wanted to combine his skills as carer and as an authority on urban deer to help connect local kids in the care system to nature and their environment.
Now, after successfully hosting the first organised trip of its kind for children in care, he hopes to roll out the education programme further.
Passionate about the roe deer that share green spaces on the outskirts of Glasgow, the experienced deer manager showed youngsters deer, explained about their lives, how to identify them and where they prefer to live and find food.
He also explained why populations sometimes required management to minimise damage to nature reserves and gardens, to keep populations healthy and to prevent road traffic accidents.
South Lanarkshire Council helped facilitate the trip and kids were given special learning packs and identification sheets from The Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) and British Deer Society.
Lowland Deer Network also provided funding for costs and a breakfast for the kids and carers, who were out spying the deer at 6.30am before most people were awake.
“It was very worthwhile,” said David, who is a member of the SGA Deer Group and Chairs the South Lanarkshire Deer Group.
“None of the children had ever seen a wild deer before. They have coped with a lot of negative challenges in their lives to date and some of them have not had the chance to experience the positives of the wildlife around them. We saw about 14 deer over the morning and the kids were passing the binoculars between them, very excited.
“We talked about numbers of deer and whether they would expect the numbers to be higher or lower the following year. They also saw Herons at a protected SSSI site as well as pink footed and graylag geese, and enjoyed the whole experience.
“At the moment it is just a pilot but it teaches them a lot about their local environment. It was really good to see them connecting with nature and we hope to do more visits in the future.”
At the end of the visit, carers were given packs of venison sausages, burgers and steaks to cook; prepared by Tweed Valley Venison.
The initiative, taking place in the Year of Young People 2018, was supported by the Social Work Department of South Lanarkshire Council.

Foster carers have since given positive feedback on both the visit and the venison, saying the kids were engaged and enjoyed the experience and getting out into the outdoors.


All members should be aware that the office is suffering unforeseen disruption this morning due to weather conditions and issues with phone systems. Please allow for this when contacting the office. Due to the nature of the disruption, email is the best way to make contact. All email requests will be answered as soon as is practical. Thanks for your patience. Team SGA.

Friday, 30 March 2018


Red Deer continue to inspire Scottish people of all generations- and sell newspapers!
Hill users are being asked to take care to avoid disturbing deer over the Easter holidays as the prolonged winter has exacted a heavy toll on Scotland’s iconic species.
With a return to wintry weather predicted, stalkers are reporting many deer severely weakened by having their food source cut off and are cautioning against stressing the animals further.
The long winter has seen higher than normal levels of wildlife mortality, with sea creatures washed up on beaches and conservation groups urging the public to help vulnerable song birds survive to breeding time.
Some farmers are reporting difficulties with lambing due to the prolonged winter weather.
Deer have also been hit hard across Scotland’s hills with food buried for months under deep and drifting snow which has then crusted over with hard frost, leaving vegetation virtually inaccessible.
Stags already in poor body condition after the annual rut, where they fight for females- sometimes to the death- have been particularly hit by weather events such as the Beast From The East.
In poor weather, deer retreat from the high tops to lower ground for shelter but have not yet returned to the tops in many areas as they are too weak from having food cut off by snow.
It will be more likely that those talking to the hills for recreation this Easter will encounter deer and are being asked to be mindful of their plight, if possible.
“It is probably the worst conditions for over a decade for deer. Normally it is harder for them in the west during winter because it is generally wetter. However, this is affecting deer all over the high ground in Scotland whether numbers in that area are relatively high or number very few,” said Lea MacNally, of The Scottish Gamekeepers Association, a professional stalker for almost half a century.
“The food source is there, they just can’t get it due to the length of time there has been full snow cover. Every winter there is an expected natural mortality but there has been much higher than normal mortality this year. Deer are having to expend a lot of energy scraping down through frosted snow to get to food and, in many areas, snow hasn’t lifted for a long time. The deer’s backs have not been dry for months and some calves are barely standing.
“If folk are out and about over Easter, where possible, they should try and give the deer a wide berth so as not to move them out of shelter. Disturbance causes deer to move and, if people take care to avoid that, it could make the difference between life and death for weakened animals.
“It would also be prudent for dog walkers to ensure their pets are under close control.”
Stalkers are warning the public that, should they see deer that have succumbed to the weather, it is likely to be around hill burns where they have moved to seek shelter.
Studies in other European countries like Norway have shown the link between hard winters and deer mortality (2) so, while concerning, this phenomenon is not unusual at the northern edge of the red deer range.
The latest SNH report on Deer Management in Scotland, 2016, reported that increases in deer numbers on the open hill have halted in Scotland in the last 15 years (1), allied with higher culling effort.

1/ Reference: Deer Management in Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage, 2016.

“The results indicate that the population of red deer in open-hill ground in Scotland has been increasing. Data from 1960 - 2016 show that deer density increased steadily since 1961 (around 8 deer/km2), and peaked in 2000-01 at around 13 deer/km2 – an increase of 60%. In the last 15 years, the population growth appears to have halted and the estimated deer density in 2016 is around 12.5 deer/km2. Figure 3.1 illlustrates the changes in deer density (stags, hinds and calves) since 1961. The trend supports the contention made by Clutton- Brock et al5 that the population growth rate was slowing by 2000.