Forestry and Land Scotland is getting extra boots on the ground in preparation for a determined cull of Scotland's deer population.

FLS is aiming to deliver a professional cull of more than 200,000 deer over the next five years, and has tendered £25 to £31 million worth of deer management regional contracts to make sure it happens.

The Forestry Commission successor body said that the contracts would bring direct investment in communities across Scotland through the award of subcontracts, business up-scaling, the provision of training and apprenticeship opportunities.

However, representatives of the recreational shooting sector are disappointed that more effort is not being made to bring existing stalking businesses and deer hunters under the umbrella of this public purse largesse.

It is widely recognised that deer management is essential to protect the 150 million young trees that, at any one time on FLS land, are vulnerable to browsing damage from deer, costing in the region of £3 million annually.

FLS’ head of wildlife management, Ian Fergusson, said: “Scotland’s forests and timber industry are fundamental to Climate Emergency mitigation and the prevention of biodiversity loss.

“Our productive forests are additionally becoming increasingly important as a natural resource, particularly as global markets face unprecedented levels of flux and the UK is importing 80% of its annual timber requirement.

“It is vital, therefore that we continue to limit the negative environmental impacts of deer damage on our forests and fragile habitats by helping to reduce deer numbers nationally to a sustainable population level.

“Awarding these contracts will have a significant positive economic impact in rural communities by supporting up to 100 jobs in the deer management sector and, through the supply of around 37,000 carcasses annually, will continue to support jobs in Scotland’s venison processing sector."

Read more: Deer cull divides the Scottish hills

In what has been a sore point with traditional stalkers, FLS has re-committed to 'year-round' deer management, maximising the use of all authorisations available to it – which will include the culling of adult female deer in September.

Speaking for recreational stalkers, BASC Scotland has repeated its calls for a community deer management pilot scheme, as set out in its ‘Our Deer – Community Integrated Deer Management in Scotland’ vision, launched last September, looking for more opportunities for trained recreational deer stalkers to manage deer on public land in their local area.

BASC Scotland public affairs manager Peter Clark said: “We recognise that FLS must have contracts in place to manage deer on publicly-owned land, but there has to be many more opportunities for recreational deer stalkers.

“The Scottish government should ask all statutory agencies and local authorities to conduct a review of their deer management leases, which would identify public landholdings which could be managed by recreational deer stalkers in their local area.

“This would be dependent on the success of any future pilot scheme, however we know among BASC members there is an appetite to contribute and stalk locally to bring high quality venison into the food supply chain.

“In our correspondence with FLS regarding the pilot scheme, we stated that deer management must be more localised, and if we are to celebrate the success of local produce, recreational stalkers must be given the opportunity to contribute to that story.”