New look LDNS

Lowland Deer Network 2024


The LDNS was proposed by SNH in partnership with ADMG in 2011and developed concurrently with the progress of the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act and the Code of Deer Management. In broad terms LDNS was developed as a forum/network for:

•           Low ground deer management practitioners (sportsmen, volunteer stalkers, rangers).

•           Landowners and farmers, particularly those who delegate their deer management to others.

•           Low ground deer management groups, where they exist, often embracing an identifiable, local common interest.

•           Organisations with an interest in deer management, deer welfare or the consequences of the interaction between deer and people: NatureScot, SGA, BASC, BDS, Scottish Forestry, FLS, Scottish Land & Estates, NFU Scotland, Local Authorities, Police Scotland, SSPCA, Transport Scotland.

Since its inception the LDNS Executive committee and members have worked together to develop new strategies and identify ways to better engage with private and public land managers in the Scottish Lowlands so that deer and their management can help deliver a range of public objectives.

They have taken forward and developed a range of good initiatives including skills uplift through subsidised DSC 1 courses and promotion of Best Practice particularly around HIA training.

During and since Covid the membership reduced and the events programme was reduced. As a result LDNS stagnated and in 2023 a review began which considered several options and opportunities which has resulted in a new format being drafted and actioned.

Role of LDNS from 2024 onwards

NatureScot, Transport Scotland and Scottish Forestry have identified there is a clear and continued need for a defined network and forum in which lowland deer managers can have a voice and national representation which is inherently different from existing entities such as Association of Deer Management Groups (ADMG) and the Deer Management Round Table (DMRT).

There is a clear need for NatureScot, as the deer authority, along with its partner agencies to have a mechanism to sense check and ground truth, with lowland land managers and deer stalking practitioners, the new areas of policy development and changing legislation against a backdrop of the increased focus on loss of biodiversity and the climate emergency.

With this in mind the continued support of LDNS is essential to help facilitate information exchange, and provide opportunities to improve awareness around changes to legislation, policy and practice.

This new streamlined function of LDNS is laid out in the new Terms of Reference.

Deer health project finds very low levels of harmful E. coli O157 strain in wild deer in Scotland

A project undertaken by the Moredun Research Institute and the University of Edinburgh into harmful E. coli O157 bacteria in Scotland’s wild deer has established that the bacteria has a low prevalence in deer of less than 0.3 per cent.

Richard Cooke, Chairman, LDNS, says:

“When we signed up to the project it was in part a leap of faith and we hoped that science would show that the occurrence of this bug in our wild deer species is extremely low, and this has turned out to be the case. Whilst we cannot make comparisons with the level in livestock or other foods, or comment on the level of risk to human health, we can certainly take comfort from this result whilst at the same time encouraging all involved in the sector to continue to be vigilant and observe Best Practice at all times to keep incidence to an absolute minimum.”

The study, funded by the Scottish Government and Food Standards Scotland, was carried out following the outbreak of E. coli O157 infection in people linked to the consumption of venison products in 2015. The bacteria, which is shed in animal faeces, causes disease due to the production of Shiga toxin and is most severe in very young or elderly people. The research set out to determine what the levels of E. coli O157 in wild deer in Scotland are and how these bacteria might be transferred to meat during the production of venison.

The research was based on the collection and testing of faecal samples from all species of wild deer in Scotland (red, roe, sika and fallow) and covered all of Scotland’s regions where wild deer are present. Through working alongside ADMG, LDNS and Forest Enterprise Scotland, a total of 1087 samples were received of which E. coli O157 was found to be present in three. Two positive samples came from red deer and one from a sika deer.

Despite these low numbers, deer managers and processors are being urged to continue to do everything within their control, from the point of cull to the end product reaching the consumer, to minimise the risk of faecal contamination of the carcass.

Dr Tom McNeilly, the Moredun Research Institute, who led the study, says:

“This project established that prevalence of E. coli O157 in Scottish wild deer is low and suggests that deer are not a major reservoir of the bacteria. Nevertheless, as E. coli O157 was found in a small number of deer and the gene for the toxin was present in a number of other samples, care should be taken to ensure minimum contamination of the deer carcass during processing. We would like to thank the deer industry and Forest Enterprise Scotland who have been fantastically supportive of the project.”

Dr Jacqui McElhiney, Head of Food Protection, Science and Surveillance at Food Standards Scotland said:

“We commissioned this piece of work alongside the Scottish Government in response to the 2015 E. coli O157 outbreak in order to improve our understanding of the risks of contamination of venison meat in Scotland. The results of this part of the survey show that the levels in deer faeces are low, but when E. coli O157 is found, it has the potential to cause severe disease if it is transferred onto the meat. The findings will support guidance that will help producers to prevent contamination.

“We would also like to remind consumers to ensure their venison is cooked thoroughly and that they follow good hygiene practices when handling raw meat to avoid the risks of food poisoning”.

Bill Bewsher, Chairman, the Scottish Venison Partnership, says:

“This has been an important piece of work for Scotland’s venison sector, given the new strategy for Scottish venison launched by Government in September and its increasing popularity.

“We will continue to urge those who manage deer, and those who process venison, to take all necessary steps to ensure that the processed product reaches the market in the safest possible condition, with a reminder to consumers that proper cooking will eliminate any residual risk.”

Partners in the Scottish Deer Health Survey include:
Association of Deer Management Groups
Lowland Deer Network Scotland
Scottish Venison Partnership
Scottish Quality Wild Venison

• E. coli bacteria are very common in the environment, with many types of E. coli living in the guts of mammals. Some types of E. coli can cause disease, some are harmless and can even be beneficial.
• E. coli O157 are a particular type of E. coli that can cause human disease as a result of the Shiga toxins they produce during infection. Other types of E. coli other than E. coli O157 can also produce the toxin and can also cause human disease.
• Human infections can cause serious illness or even death, particularly in very young or elderly people.
• E. coli O157 can be carried by cattle and other ruminants, including deer and sheep, without affecting them in any way. Shedding of the bacteria from ruminants tends to be sporadic, meaning an animal that is positive for E. coli O157 on any particular day can be negative on another day.

Bids being sought by SNH for Flanders Moss NNR Deer Management Permission

Scottish Natural Heritage requires a more focussed culling effort to address the expanding deer population on Flanders Moss NNR. SNH is offering a unique opportunity to bid for deer management permission on Flanders Moss NNR over the land specifically owned by SNH (this is c ~90 hectares). The proposed lease would be for one year from 3 September 2018 to 2 September 2019.

Here are the important dates (all 2018) for this contract:

Tender goes live: Friday 10 August
Site Visit to Flanders Moss NNR: Thursday 16 August, 11.00am
Questions from bidders (if applicable): Friday 10 August to Tuesday 21 August
Deadline for the receipt of Bids by SNH (if using the PCS portal, quotes must be uploaded by this date/time): 10:00am, Thursday 23 August

Evaluation of bids: 27 August until 29 August
Contract offered: Friday 31 August
Meeting of successful contractor: w/c Monday 3 September
Culling can begin: w/c Monday 10 September

Full details can be found within the Public Contracts Scotland website, please use the following link:

If this is your first time using the website you will need to register, and search for Flanders Moss NNR – SOR – SNH Stalking Permit September 2018 – 2019.


DVCs and Deer Management

A gathering of 20 deer managers took place at Raehills Estate, courtesy of Lord David Johnstone, on Tuesday 12 June to discuss the issue of deer vehicle collisions and possible steps and mitigation measures that can be put in place to reduce numbers of road traffic accidents with deer. There are currently an estimated 8,000 to 14,000 deer vehicle collisions in Scotland each year of which 70 result in human injury according to Dr Jochen Langbein of Langbein Wildlife, the UK deer vehicle collision expert.

Pictured before the start of the morning seminar are the speakers (left to right): Angus Corby, Transport Scotland; Isla Davidson, Scotland TranServ; Lord David Johnstone, Raehills Estate, and Chairman Scottish Land and Estates who hosted the meeting; Jochen Langbein; Maitland Rankin, Chairman, Galloway and Dumfriesshire Deer Group; and Jamie Hammond, Scottish Natural Heritage.

The event was organised by the Lowland Deer Network Scotland, Scottish Land and Estates, Transport Scotland, and the Galloway and Dumfriesshire Deer Group.

Raehills Deer Meeting

New food safety films for venison sector now online

Three food safety films specifically to highlight potential high risk areas of contamination in the venison food chain are now available online. The three films, titled Field dressing a roe buck, The gralloch on the hill, and Essential red deer larder work have been produced by the Scottish Venison Partnership, Scottish Quality Wild Venison, and Scottish Natural Heritage (Best Practice Guides) in order to increase awareness about contamination risks and steps that can be taken to prevent this. The three films, made by Pace Productions, will be shown at two special workshops for stalkers and deer managers on Friday 29 June at the GWCT Scottish Game Fair this summer with opportunities for discussion and questions around this and related meat hygiene issues. The films can be seen on the Scottish Venison Youtube channel here.

Pilot deer management project to north of Glasgow needs deer managers to get in touch

Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) is currently undertaking work for Scottish Natural Heritage to better understand current models of lowland deer management in relation to the delivery of public interests. SRUC is collating relevant information to develop a deer management database for a 950 km2 pilot study site to the north of Glasgow, bounded by the main trunk roads and Loch Lomond to the west and Stirling to the east (see map below – click to enlarge). The area includes a mix of land uses and landownership types typical of lowland and peri-urban areas and includes areas of commercial forestry, farmland, amenity land, Local Authority land, development sites and small holdings.


The project aims to collate information relating to deer management and key areas of public interest, including woodland expansion, protection and enhancement of native woodlands and impacts on designated sites by deer. Other relevant areas include economic impacts associated with damage to woodland, agricultural crops and gardens and deer vehicle collisions and economic benefits derived from sporting leases and venison sales.


Can you help?
Are you carrying out deer management, commercial or recreational stalking in or near to the pilot area? If you are then SRUC would be very grateful if you could make contact  ( and provide the following information by email:

  • Your name and current address
  • The areas in or near to the pilot study area where you stalk/manage deer
  • The capacity in which you do this (private stalker, syndicate, farmer etc.)
  • The number of times a year you normally engage in stalking in the area
  • How you use any venison from the area including any game dealer(s) used
  • Any other comments you may have in relation to your activity in this area.

Please note that all information provided will be treated as confidential and used only in aggregate form for the purposes of developing a deer GIS and carrying out spatial mapping of activity across the study area.

Scottish Deer Health Survey 2017 – 19

Deer stalkers and deer managers across the uplands and lowlands are being encouraged to take part in the Scottish Deer Health Survey, possibly the largest research programme ever of this type in the UK, to establish the prevalence or otherwise of a number of health risks across all of Scotland’s wild deer species.

The research project, which runs over two years and is funded by Food Standards Scotland and the Scottish Government, is being undertaken by the Moredun Research Institute and Edinburgh University, and is supported by Scotland’s wild deer sector, the Association of Deer Management Groups, the Lowland Deer Network Scotland and the Scottish Venison Partnership.

The initiative was launched in August. Its objective is to assess the prevalence of E. coli O157, Cryptosporidium and Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in the Scottish wild deer population, all species, upland and lowland.

Alerted to the risk of E. coli O157 in processed wild venison products in an outbreak in 2015, scientists suspect that its actual prevalence may be very low in Scottish wild deer.  However, the Scottish venison industry, which is helping to meet a healthy and ever increasing demand for venison products in the UK, would benefit from having this verified, along with information on which stages of the venison production process carry higher risks of potential contamination from E. coli.

It is intended that this research once concluded can help to inform current Best Practice guidelines for processing of carcasses and reduce any risk to human health, and is considered a vital part of the knowledge bank if the industry is to continue to grow and develop.

The research project will also involve screening faecal samples for the parasite Cryptosporidium and rectal tissue samples for CWD, both of which are currently seen as risks to deer health and welfare.  CWD is especially prevalent in certain states in the USA and has been reported in Scandinavia where it was diagnosed in moose, and in March 2016 in wild reindeer from the Nordfjella mountain area in Norway resulting in a Government order to cull of the herd and a quarantining of the ground.

For the research project, sample collection is a simple process that can be done at the time of the gralloch or in the larder. It is hoped that more than 1000 faecal and tissue samples will be collected from all deer habitat across Scotland including the islands in order to provide the broadest picture of where risk from such issues may be highest.

Instructions about how to collect samples are contained within the packs and also here:
More information
Sampling protocol

For more information please contact Tom McNeilly ( or Beth Wells ( tel. 0131 445 6157.

ECCLR Committee – report on deer management

In April, the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee of the Scottish Parliament published its report on deer management in Scotland.  This followed its evidence -taking sessions on the 2016 Scottish Natural Heritage report on the same subject. This report goes to the Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Roseanna Cunningham MSP. Having assessed its content she will then respond for the Government. The Committee’s full report can be accessed here or by using the link in the right hand menu.

Review of Deer Management in Scotland

Deer Management in Scotland: Report to the Scottish Government from Scottish Natural Heritage (2016)

ECCLR Committee – final evidence session of the Deer Management Review
The Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform (ECCLR) Committee of the Scottish Parliament has been undertaking a review of deer management and held its final evidence session on 24 January 2017.

You can watch the video record of this and the previous ECCLR Committee evidence sessions on Scottish Parliament TV here . The draft written report of that final evidence session is available here .

We now awaits the Committee’s findings, its report to the Cabinet Secretary and her proposals and any subsequent actions to be taken by the Scottish Government.

LDNS oral evidence on the Report
LDNS gave evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform (ECCLR) Committee on 13 December 2016. The Scottish Parliament video of that evidence session is available here .

The LDNS written briefing for the Committee is available here .

Native woodlands inside and outside the main red deer range in Scotland

Victor Clements, independent native woodlands consultant based in Perthshire, and also a member of the Executive Committee of ADMG, reassesses the Native Woodlands Scotland Survey and finds that the survey’s conclusions may be distorted.  His findings have been published in an extensive report in the winter 2016 issue of Scottish Forestry.

He writes:

The Native Woodland Survey of Scotland (NWSS) published in 2014 gave an up to date account of the status of native woodland areas throughout the country. At the time, the headline message was that herbivore impacts were the greatest threat to these woodlands, and red deer numbers in particular needed to be addressed. Since then, the ongoing deer management planning process has shown that the herbivore impacts in many deer management group areas are actually relatively low, and provisional analysis by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has also shown this to be the case at a national level as well as within much of the main deer range. There are of course exceptions to this.

This paper analyses herbivore impacts within the recognised red deer range in Scotland and compares them with the rest of the country. It also looks at the other issues which result in ‘unsatisfactory’ condition, namely invasive species, non-native tree species, and poor canopy cover, in order to place herbivore impacts in a wider overall context.

The full article can be seen here