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Wild red deer gene analysis informs management plans

Genetic studies highlight the species’ genetic diversity and population structure, with implications for conservation and wildlife management.

Insights into the genetic diversity of wild red deer populations in France may inform plans to further develop how they are managed.

Genetic analyses have revealed at least three distinct red deer populations in a region in the south of the country, rather than a single large population as previously thought.

The findings have implications for deer population management and conservation plans. The data suggests a need for population-specific management strategies, which would help maintain the genetic diversity and the species' long-term adaptability to their environment, while controlling population numbers for habitat protection, experts say.

Analysis was carried out in the Roslin Institute by Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies researchers, in a collaboration with France’s National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment (INRAE).

Genetic insights

DNA was extracted from red deer tissue samples collected in the areas of Tarn, Aveyron, and Lozère within l’Aubrac in south-central France, an important hunting region, at INRAE and later genotyped and analysed at the Roslin Institute.

This study was the first genetic study of red deer in l’Aubrac and revealed the existence of at least 3 distinct populations within the region.

The study was presented to the French National Hunters Federation and stakeholders from other regions expressed interest for conducting similar studies in other regions, the team says.

To meet this demand, the research team are planning further studies in the region, aiming to refine protocols for routine genotyping of red deer populations across France.

The data collected from this study will be further analysed for an in-depth scientific publication, investigating the effect of landscape features and past management practices in the genetic diversity and population structure of red deer in l’Aubrac.


The identification of multiple distinct red deer populations highlights the importance of implementing genetic studies to inform conservation and management strategies. Information on genetic diversity and population structure will not only inform current monitoring and population control of red deer populations in l’Aubrac, but will also help inform management strategies aimed to improve red deer population connectivity in the area through woodland expansion and creation of wildlife corridors.

Dr Sílvia Pérez Espona


 ** The Roslin Institute receives strategic investment funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and it is part of the University of Edinburgh’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies. **

Image credit: Diana Parkhouse / Unsplash