Further to your article of 4 April 2020 'Research into disease in the deer population', we actually know a great deal more now about prevalence of E. coli O157 in Scotland’s wild deer populations as a wide-ranging Scottish Government/Food Standards Scotland funded project led by the Moredun has recently concluded and interim results have been published. The final report is expected shortly.

That project, part of which involved the collection and testing of faecal samples from all species of wild deer in Scotland (red, roe, sika and fallow), and covering all of Scotland’s regions where wild deer are present found that, from a total of 1087 samples submitted, E. coli O157 was only present in three of them, a level of < 0.3 per cent Two positive samples came from red deer and one from a sika deer. We already know therefore that prevalence of E. coli O157 in Scottish wild deer is very low and that deer are not a major reservoir of the bacteria.

Moreover, your report states that the “number of deer in the UK is growing with more farmers keeping them for venison, and wild deer populations increasing.” However, whilst numbers of enclosed farmed deer may be increasing, slowly, and it is a reasonable guess that roe numbers are rising on the basis of expanding habitat, red deer numbers on Scotland’s open range have, since the millennium, been static and latterly decreasing – down by 9 per cent according to an SNH 2019 report.

The emphasis of this latest study may of course be farmed, park and zoo deer, or wild deer in areas of the UK other than Scotland which would then be a useful addition to the overall picture.

Dick Playfair

Scottish Venison Association