At the end of November, we took part in a Harris and Lewis deer count. Scottish Natural Heritage organised two helicopters to cover the various estates over three days. The weather conditions were not the best, with high winds and low cloud threatening to cancel flying each day. Each helicopter had a pilot and navigator, then squeezed in the back were two spotters and a recorder. The data gathered has now been transposed into a thorough report which we have just received.
The results of the count in North Harris show that numbers are lower than expected. Stags numbers are down by 36% and hinds 24% on the last count. The herd is still well distributed throughout the estate, but the majority of beasts were found well away from roads and from the disturbance of walkers. Deer were mostly seen in small mixed groups. The lateness of the rut last year has meant that the Stags are still with the groups of hinds and calves.
The count informs the decisions we make about future cull targets. It will allow us to better target the most suitable beasts for culling. The aim is to maintain a balanced population. With SNH and the North Harris Stalking Club’s help, we can apply industry best-practice to the management of our herd. In keeping numbers at the appropriate level we can also protect valuable habitat.
The survey was funded by SNH with a modest contribution from each of the estates involved.