Apr 122012

What has happened on Tullos Hill lately? What happened to the deer? Suzanne Kelly, who first covered the Tullos Hill deer cull story almost a year ago in May 2011, updates Aberdeen Voice readers.

Deer Cull

First, I am sorry to say but the cull seems to have happened. I have several sources who witnessed a silver Land Rover and one (unconfirmed) who spoke to a hunter. How many animals were shot so far, and whether more will be destroyed, is now subject of a Freedom of Information request.

Three separate sources have similar stories to tell – a silver Range Rover seen on the hill several times by different people and reports of lights flashing at night on the hill set the scene to support that Aileen Malone, Ranger Ian Tallboys, ‘consultant’ Chris Piper and Peter Leonard have had their way, and had deer shot.

A source told me he confronted a man on the hill who was clearly a hunter ; this hunter apparently said the Tullos deer were being shot during the season, which just ended. The hunter allegedly said that deer were ‘like rabbits with long legs’, and that ‘usually’ they were killed with one clean shot. A further night-time count, according to the hunter, confirmed that there were some 30 deer on the hill.

Perhaps worst of all, according to this hunter, under the new guidelines only one buck and a few does can be supported in the large Tullos Hill area. (A life-long country resident and countryside expert I consulted tells me this figure ‘seems extremely mean’). If this statement is true, then it spells the end for a healthy gene pool: you don’t have to be a scientist to see this is nonsense. Animal welfare groups and experts have repeatedly protested against the cull on scientific as well as ethical grounds, and advised that the deer move between several sites.

Animal experts will be asked to weigh in on the number of deer that the hill can support. If the new law which just came into effect truly says that only one buck and a doe or two would be the maximum, then – as Charles Dickens famously wrote – ‘the law is an ass.’


I’d written to the Forestry Commission and called to remind them that three community councils panned the City’s poor, misleading & incomplete consultation. This ‘phase 2 consultation’ appeared online and mentioned nothing about putting a massive 89,000 trees on Tullos (which if they stood a chance of growing would change the existing environment forever – the effect on everything from birds to fungi will be profound) or about shooting our deer.

No one in the local area seems to want this, and very many people have said ‘no’ to it by writing to the City and by signing petitions.

every gorse plant, every fern and every other green thing has been replaced by a beige coloured wasteland

So what did the Forestry Commission advise me? They said to correspond with the city.
Valerie Watts has already refused to correspond with me on this issue any further (failing to answer relevant, pointed, specific questions).

More to the point, the Forestry Commission was told the consultation was fine by the Tree for Every Citizen Scheme’s proponents – and is now choosing to ignore the people of Aberdeen who are saying the consultation was a farce.

Clearly, writing to the City, which naturally sticks to the ‘robustness’ (in their words) of the consultation, would be pointless in the extreme.

However, this consultation was not just a nicety – it was supposed to be a requirement for the scheme proceeding. In a slide presentation (which is general to say the least) Ranger Tallboys infers the consultation was correct; his presentation uses a photo of people looking at a map in a seeming attempt to illustrate the concept of consultation.

The robustness of the consultation is also attested to in a December 2011 report written by CJ Piper (the consultant the City hired who has thus far been paid at least £44,000) and the City (specific author unspecified, but one must assume Tallboys and Leonard had a hand in it at least). The document seems to be part of the application the city made for this next phase.

The draft application certainly looked faulty to me, and this December 2011 report entitled “Aberdeen City Council, The Granite City Forest ‘Tree for Every Citizen’ Programme, Tullos Hill Community Woodland” is worthy of some further analysis.

Aberdeen City Council, The Granite City Forest “Tree for Every Citizen” Programme, Tullos Hill Community Woodland: A study in self-promotion, propaganda and whitewash.

It is not possible to ignore the cover of this report for openers; it has a picture of Tullos, wherein every gorse plant, every fern and every other green thing has been replaced by a beige coloured wasteland which makes Death Valley appear as a welcoming oasis. Imposing a forest on this barren empty area would look a good idea (well played, Aberdeen City Council).

  Page Four’s first paragraph advises the reader how ‘vibrant and dynamic’ the ‘vision’ is.

A look at the table of contents for this 68 page report (Page 69 is left blank for the reader’s ‘notes’) would lead you to think it is a highly scientific, thoroughly researched balanced work. Twenty-five maps, a dozen tables, and sections on everything from soil to strategy – what could be more scholarly? Then you start reading.

The repetition, another propaganda technique, doesn’t even allow the reader to go two pages without using the same stock phrases again and again. Page Four’s first paragraph advises the reader how ‘vibrant and dynamic’ the ‘vision’ is. For the more forgetful reader, this is reiterated a mere six paragraphs later.

In between we are told this is not a management plan, but rather is meant to give further support to the scheme. So, we have a situation where CJ Piper, a direct financial beneficiary of the past scheme and any further work, is working with the council to prove what a great plan this is. ‘Conflict of Interest’ is the phrase that most comes to mind.

Page Five in its Sections 2.1 and 2.2 stress no less than 3 times that there are ‘community’ benefits. There is absolutely no mention to be found in this paper of the complete lack of community support for this scheme.

A section on soil later in this report, heavily padded with imagery, makes no mention of the Forestry Commission’s own soil report until the last few pages, where at last buried in a table is some acknowledgement that the previous planting failed largely due to weeds and allegedly deer browsing. If the deer which now also need to be ‘managed’ at St Fitticks were really a cause, then why are virtually all the St Fitticks tree guards in pristine shape?

Finally we come to the real actuality of what is proposed for our hill and its deer.

Page 67 lays out the one-off night vision count figures – and then lays out plans to eliminate veritably all of these animals. There will be no herd of deer by the time the trees are meant to be maturing. Here are the cull plans, previously withheld from the public for an unreasonably long period of time:

‘An [sic] SNH count using thermal imaging equipment was carried out in February 2011 which indicated the presence of 7 bucks, 10 does, 6 juveniles and 6 unclassified animals.

Two types of control will be carried out within the Plan period:

(1) A Pre-Planting Reduction in stocking of deer whereby additional inputs from ACC will be employed in the initial year of the Plan to reduce the roe deer population to a level that will not threaten establishment of the planned woodland creation programme. This is estimated to be 8 deer per 100 ha.

(2) On-going Management Control that will be carried out on (an) annual basis to maintain the roe deer population at the above level that is considered to be necessary to achieve the desired woodland and associated habitat conditions.

The Targets for the above types of management will be:-

  • 2012/13 pre planting reduction: 8 bucks, 9 does, 7 juveniles (Popn. target 5
  • 2013/14 on-going management 1 buck, 2 does, 1 juvenile (popn. target 5)
  • 2014/15 on-going management 1 buck, 2 does, 1 juvenile (popn. target 5)
  • 2015/16 on-going management 1 buck, 2 does, 1 juvenile (popn. target 5)
  • 2016/17 on-going management 1 buck, 2 does, 1 juvenile (popn. target 5)

Totals 8 bucks, 9 does, 7 juveniles for pre-planting reduction and 4 bucks, 8 does and 4 juveniles for on-going management.’

You do not have to be a scientist or a biologist to see that this programme, if carried out, will end the genetic variety and thus health, robustness and overall survival of this herd of roe deer. Any predation, death (they live 6-7 years) lack of successful breeding – and the herd will be gone.

The paper claims that 8 deer should inhabit 100 ha. That is some estimate, and if it truly reflects new deer guidelines, these need to be re-thought, questioned and changed before the apparently powerful, definitely lucrative, hunting lobby ‘manages’ our deer populations out of existence.

The culler’s name is blacked out. He or she has worked for Aberdeen City Council since 1983. They will shoot our deer with a .22 calibre rifle. They are qualified in game meat handling.

The only community building that has taken place is the unification of people and community councils against this tree scheme.

The report says deer are now (suddenly and conveniently) overpopulating Aberdeen and resulting in automobile accidents. The writer suggested over a year ago that in keeping with other parts of the UK, the City should erect some signs warning motorists deer are in the area as a precaution.

The number of deer causing accidents is as nothing compared to the number of other animals killed by motorists, the number of pedestrians hit while crossing roads, and the other forms of road carnage we see daily in our newspapers. It is a situation which an awareness campaign and signs could well help to eliminate in a fashion somewhat less barbaric than killing the animals to save them.

This ‘kill to avoid a problem’ mentality should not be allowed to drive our deer into a low population situation. The fact is nature is cruel – some animals will die; some will be predated (again, foxes do get young deer). Yet somehow, despite lack of government intervention and Mr Tallboy’s rifle, they have managed to exist in this area for decades. Until now.

The hunter from all accounts would have to be Ranger Tallboys. The question is opened, is this man serving the environment or his paymasters? There was not a hint of objection when the city granted planning permission for a football stadium to be build at Loirston Loch, in the heart of a SAC area home to protected species.

Now Ranger Tallboys is adamant that the deer must be shot, despite costly failure of the first phase of trees to grow and the clear evidence the second phase will likewise fail. His silence over the gorse removal and its impact on various species including birds such as the Yellowhammer, was deafening.

It may well have been Tallboys who referred to deer to a passer-by on the hill as ‘rabbits with long legs’. We may have rabbit population issues. Rabbits and roe deer do not have the same breeding and population issues. This attitude might be amusing, except for its complete lack of understanding of the community’s wishes.

The paper refers again and again to community building. The only community building that has taken place is the unification of people and community councils against this tree scheme.

I could go into further detail about this paper; its arcane drawings showing how 89,000 trees will not change the vistas from or of the archaeological remains on Tullos and so on. It is a cut and paste job which raises many questions (not least of which is who exactly paid for it, and why it is allowed to misrepresent the public feeling on this matter).

I will post a link to it on one of my websites shortly, omitting the illustrations which have turned it into a vast, repetitive document.


The trees at St Fitticks (where there are any traces of trees at all in the intact tubes) were either choked with weeds or are stunted (no doubt due to the poor soil and proximity to the North Sea, its winds and its salt air.

The area as shown in my recent photo-essay is wholly neglected. If there are people in Aberdeen City who were meant to maintain the trees and keep the weeds down, then they have done a very poor job indeed. Hardly any at all of the tree guards at St Fitticks are damaged. The area is strewn with litter as well, and vandalism certainly accounted for some of the damage.

The gorse was cleared in massive sections from Tullos; perhaps it is just as well deer have been shot, for they are without the shelter they previously would have had.