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Is wild deer management more effective when people work together?


This research used wild deer in Britain as a case study to produce frameworks for the development of effective, collaborative and sustainable management of natural resources in Britain. Forest Research worked with partners from six institutions to examine deer management and explore how cooperation could minimise costs and maximise benefits.

Key findings and recommendations

  • Adaptive management – the project showed how maps could be used to integrate local and scientific knowledge, helping to build trust and facilitate negotiation between rural resource managers
  • Collaboration – managers should seek to build on existing collaborative efforts, rather than create new ones
  • Current legislation – laws protect the rights of landowners regarding deer exploitation, but are not effective at supporting measures to limit the negative impact of deer in other areas
  • New legislation – needs to respond to changing social and economic conditions by developing an integrated approach which including state intervention, voluntary collaboration, financial incentives and legal responsibility for management
  • Venison – in Scotland venison supply is not sensitive to price
  • Public attitudes to landscapes, biodiversity and deer management – there is a common understanding on the value of landscapes and biodiversity, but managers should ensure the language that they use is understood
  • Financemonetary incentives and voluntary schemes at certain sites could promote more collaboration in deer management, but mandatory schemes are viewed as unacceptable by the majority of deer managers
  • Stakeholder involvement – the involvement of stakeholders in research helps to improve collaboration as well as disseminate the latest knowledge and best practice

Our involvement

The Social and Economic Research Group (SERG) of Forest Research contributed significantly to the project as a whole, providing specific expertise in qualitative stakeholder research. The team conducted interviews and literature reviews and ran workshops to find out more about the motivations, objectives and activities of key stakeholder groups.

The Forest Research Centre for Human and Ecological Sciences worked with the Macaulay Institute to develop a spatial model that predicts the impact of culling on red deer numbers and the distribution of red deer in the landscape. The team ran simulations to inform discussion and collaboration between deer managers. The researchers also evaluated the impact of deer in woodland at case study locations, focusing on their effect on local biodiversity.

Funding and partners

Funded by the Rural Economy and Land Use programme of UK Research Councils, with additional support from the Forestry Commission.


  • Forest Research
  • Macaulay Institute
  • University of Edinburgh
  • University of York
  • Durrell Institute of Conservation Ecology, University of Kent
  • University of St Andrews
  • University of Aberdeen




Social and economic research

Norman Dandy

Project interdisciplinarity and social research

Liz O’Brien

Herbivore impacts on woodland ecosystems

Robin Gill

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