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Nature. 2004 May 20;429(6989):261-2.

Red deer stocks in the Highlands of Scotland.

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Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 3EJ, UK.


Grazing by hill sheep and red deer prevents the regeneration of woodland in many parts of the Scottish Highlands and has also led to extensive loss of heather cover. Conservation bodies claim that there has been a rapid rise in Highland deer numbers caused by inadequate management and that these need to be drastically reduced. Here we show that the recent increase in red deer stocks has probably been overestimated and suggest that the gradual rise in numbers since 1970 may be a consequence of a reduction in sheep stocks and of changes in winter weather, rather than of a reduction in culling rate. Although there would be environmental benefits in reducing deer numbers, there is an equal need to reduce the numbers of hill sheep in many parts of the Highlands.

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