A FIRST-of-its-kind web service designed to help reduce disturbance during the stag stalking season in Scotland has been given praise after a successful launch.
Heading for the Scottish Hills was developed to provide information to hillwalkers and other recreational users about deer stalking and the East Grampian Deer Management Group (EGDMG) has reported a significant reduction of disturbances, thanks to the site’s services.
Available on the Outdoor Access website, the service helps users find out where deer stalking is taking place on participating estates over the busy stag stalking season and to plan routes which minimise the chance of causing disturbance to stalking, in line with the guidance in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.
Malcolm Taylor, director at Bell Ingram and secretary of the EGDMG, said: “The Scottish hills and mountains where stalking takes place are a big attraction for a broad range of recreational activities.
“Therefore, it’s vital that those who plan on visiting these areas can find out exactly where stalking is taking place and follow advice on alternative routes.
“The Heading for the Scottish Hills scheme is now in its third year having been developed in a succession of pilot schemes but this is the first year in which it has been used in the East Grampians area.
“The site is extremely easy to use with an interactive map that invites users to select an area which will take them to the stalking information for that property.
“This season we have experienced a reduction in the number of disturbances to stalking which can be largely accredited to the site being well received by the public. This is a clear example of positive management that works.
“On behalf of the EGDMG, I’d like to thank everyone who took the time to use the site and I hope it will continue to develop and grow to invite more users and include more estates.”
Deer management does occur throughout the year but the most sensitive time is the stag stalking season during 1 July to 20 October but with most stalking taking place from August onwards.
Simon Blackett, vice-chair at the East Grampian Deer Management Group, said: “Deer have no natural predators which is why we have to manage their numbers to keep in balance with the environment.
“The response to this service with it being the first year it’s been launched has been really positive and worked well to help reduce the number of disturbances.
“Prior to the web service was the Hillphone recorded message service which has been used for the past 15 years. Although it was effective I’ve found that Heading for the Scottish Hills has opened up a far more valuable and helpful dialogue between walkers and estate owners.
“Walkers regularly emailed asking for information informing us of their planned routes and in many cases were very cooperative if a possible change of route was suggested.
“The service operates during the stag stalking season and will resume again next year when we hope it will be even better received and will hopefully further encourage people to be reasonable and responsible when taking the land management practices of others into consideration.”
Bell Ingram has been managing some of Scotland’s finest estates since 1899.
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