Managing urban deer in Scotland : understanding perceptions to shape policymaking

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)


Rising populations of deer in Scottish urban areas are creating increased potential for conflict, raising questions about whether they need to be managed. Yet, there has been little research or policy focus on urban deer in Scotland thus far. This thesis investigates perceptions of urban deer and their management in Scotland, including the role of Local Authorities, to help shape future policymaking on the topic. Four methods were used: (i) interviews with experts, (ii) a Q-methodology study with Local Authority staff, (iii) an online survey of local councillors and (iv) a postal survey of the public. Whilst urban deer are generally welcomed in Scotland, views on whether deer numbers are too high differed between stakeholders. Perceptions of the impacts of urban deer were also varied, but deer- vehicle collisions and deer welfare were the issues recognised most frequently. There was broad consensus that urban deer need to be managed. However, current practices are perceived to be insufficient, with NatureScot and Local Authorities having paid limited attention to urban deer thus far. Views differ on which management methods should be used in the Scottish urban context. Clear differences between rural and urban deer management emerged, with fragmented landholdings (such as in dense housing areas) and higher human populations adding challenges to management. There is overall support for Local Authorities taking responsibility for urban deer management on their own land and beyond their landownership. Obstacles to their engagement include concerns about public and councillor perceptions, safety, and a lack of resources, experience and support. Three factors impacting effective urban deer management in Scotland are recognised: the need for context specific understandings and responses, the need for awareness-raising amongst stakeholders to gain support and increase action, and the need to fill gaps in data and research. A policy framework for future effective urban deer management in Scotland is proposed.
Date of Award28 Nov 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorCharles Raymond Warren (Supervisor) & Althea Davies (Supervisor)


  • Deer management
  • Urban wildlife
  • Urban deer
  • Urban deer management
  • Wildlife management
  • Environmental social science
  • Q-methodology
  • Social research
  • Perception research
  • Scotland
  • Land management
  • Human-wildlife interactions
  • Human dimensions of wildlife

Access Status

  • Full text open
  • Embargo period has ended, thesis made available in accordance with University regulations.

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