Order given to landowners shoot non-native deer

Muntjac deer destroy crops and native woodland. Photo: Richard Beale
Muntjac deer destroy crops and native woodland. Photo: Richard Beale

SCOTTISH Natural Heritage is urging people to be vigilant about the sighting of a non-native deer species spotted in the region, and an order to shoot on sight has been given to landowners.

Two Muntjac deer, which cause severe damage to vegetation, have been reported by an experienced deer manager near Sanquhar but officials fear they could be spreading across the region.

Scottish Natural Heritage’s (SNH’s) Wildlife Operations Unit has swiftly investigated the incident.

Muntjac deer have spread rapidly across England and Wales over the past 40 years and caused extensive crop damage and road safety problems. The small deer, which are originally from China, are now expanding northward, but so far they have not become established in Scotland. If Scotland did have to manage an established Munjtac population, SNH has estimated the costs would be up to £2 million a year

A deer manager reported seeing the two deer on a privately-owned forestry plantation.

Muntjac can be extremely secretive, so SNH staff used night vision binoculars and remotely operated trail cameras to try to locate them in the thick conifer plantation. Despite four weeks of monitoring deer activity in the area, no further sightings were made.

Jamie Hammond, SNH’s Wildlife Management Officer for South Scotland said: “We have to take all reports of Muntjac seriously. Most of the time they turn out to be false alarms, but in this instance the report was from a reliable source. We have contacted all the neighbouring landowners and urged deer managers in the local area to remain vigilant and shoot any Muntjac deer on sight if they get the opportunity.”

Muntjac, as a non-native species, are not subject to statutory seasons set out within the Deer (Scotland) Act 1996. Deer managers are now required by law to report any sightings to the SNH Wildlife Operations Unit as soon as they occur. Anyone with any information on muntjac deer in Scotland may contact SNH on 01463 725365 or e-mail WILDLIFEOPS@snh.gov.uk.