A call has been made for the Queen to order that more deer be culled on the Balmoral estate to help tackle climate change.

The number of red deer at the monarch’s Scottish retreat culled over the last 15 years has fallen by 12 per cent. Deer numbers on the estate, part of Caenlochan Glen, increased by 16% between 2003 and 2016 from 2,820 to 3,360.

The Scottish Government says deer population control in Scotland is a major issue, because the animals destroy forests that are needed in the fight against climate change, as are peatland’s, which the deer can disturb.

They are also estimated to cause 12,000 road accidents every year in Scotland. Earlier this year, a report ordered by the Scottish Government recommended thousands more deer be culled annually across the country to address the issue.

Dave Morris, former director of Ramblers Scotland, the country’s association representing hillwalkers, said: “We have major problems in Scotland with too many deer and the effect it’s having on the natural habitat.

“I think Caenlochan is the worst area for deer in Scotland and Balmoral is part of the problem.

“It’s time the Royal Family, if they are serious about climate change, start reducing numbers of deer.”

Robbie Kernahan, director at Scottish Natural Heritage said: “The estates in the South Grampian and Caenlochan area, including Balmoral, have been working with SNH to reduce deer numbers.”

A SNH spokesman added: “Our recent Deer Progress Report showed that while challenges remain, significant progress has been made by landowners and managers.

“SNH leads a programme of work to promote sustainable deer management across Scotland, recognising the essential role it needs to play to help address climate change and biodiversity loss.

“Research shows deer numbers increased in Scotland from 1961 to 2001, but numbers have since stabilised because of increased culling, which is sometimes necessary to ensure healthy deer populations, reduce road traffic accidents and prevent significant damage to our agriculture, forestry and nature.”

A Balmoral source said: “Red deer are an iconic addition to Balmoral but there can be a clear conflict between deer culling and ensuring local forests are maintained around the estate.

“The estate is doing it’s very best to ensure a balance is maintained and is working with relevant authorities to ensure this is achieved.”

A recent report has said up to one million wild deer, nearly double previous estimates, could be roaming the country, damaging the landscape and hampering environmental efforts.

The findings, published by the Deer Working Group, is urging Scottish ministers to crack down on uncooperative Highland estates that refuse to control deer numbers to protect their lucrative hunting market, by using legal powers to enforce culls.

But landowners have criticised the recommendations, saying the report comes in sharp contrast to similar research by Scottish Natural Heritage published just two months earlier.

The body that represents rural businesses and landowners, Scottish Land and Estates (SLE), also insisted conflicting evidence on the future of deer management in Scotland should not overshadow the recent progress achieved.

It maintained the issue was not about overall deer numbers but about their impact on local areas.

Sarah-Jane Laing, chief executive of the SLE, said: “Substantial progress has been made in the operation of deer management groups over the past five years, with the sector demonstrating its ability to respond and adapt to new challenges and manage deer in a way that is sustainable and safeguards public interests." 

Some deer estates in areas such as Glen Artney and Strathtay, Perthshire, have red deer densities above 20 per square kilometre, while numerous parts of Inverness-shire, the Cairngorms, Deeside and Angus have between 15 and 18 per square kilometre. The report endorses SNH’s identification of the need for significant changes in deer management as an important issue in climate crisis mitigation measures, and recommends that it is addressed as a priority. Conservationists argue that red deer, who often roam in vast herds, prevent woodland and shrubs from naturally regenerating.

Ms Laing added: “The right density is also dependent on pasture availability rather than a strict number applicable across every region.”