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Gamekeepers hit out at ‘out of season deer culls’ on Isle of Skye

·3-min read
One image shows a large, unborn calf lying beside its shot mother and a second post shows another dead hind found just 1,000 yards away - Roy Waller / Alamy Stock Photo
One image shows a large, unborn calf lying beside its shot mother and a second post shows another dead hind found just 1,000 yards away - Roy Waller / Alamy Stock Photo

Recent incidents of what appears to be out-of-season deer culling on the Isle of Skye must not become Scotland's standard of deer management, gamekeepers have warned ministers.

Photographs have emerged on Facebook showing dead female deer inside a new forestry enclosure at Dunvegan, near the MacLeod Estate, sparking outrage from island residents.

One image shows a large, unborn calf lying beside its shot mother and a second post shows another dead hind found just 1,000 yards away.

The scenes have angered local people on social media, with one man who did not wish to be identified condemning the shooting out of season as “wrong and disgusting”, adding: “The Government is wrong to hand out licences to do these culls.”

"To get a few deer out of a gate isn't like a few sheep with your dog... but trying to get a few deer out of a newly fenced off huge area is very, very hard,” he said.

It is understood the fenced enclosure is part of a £1 million native woodland creation project on the estate which has caused tension in the community.

A spokesman for the MacLeod Estate said: "The MacLeod Estate and its team takes its deer management responsibilities very seriously and the only culling authorised and undertaken this year has been in accordance with the regulations and in permitted areas."

It follows warnings last year from the Scottish Gamekeepers Association that young deer face slowly starving to death in Scotland's forests thanks to a controversial new government policy to shoot their mothers earlier.

Group chairman Alex Hogg said the organisation is urging SNP ministers not to sanction changes which will "make this type of deer management the standard in Scotland".

"We are not going to enter into speculation as to what has happened here,” he said.

"What we do know is that one image clearly shows a female, with a very large unborn calf, which has obviously been culled weeks outside of the legal open season.

"Judging by online comments, this is not the type of deer management the people of Skye want to see, climate emergency or not, and we have warned Scottish Government about this very issue before.”

Mr Hogg added that while deer need to be managed and in circumstances that must be outside of approved seasons with the authorisation of NatureScot, a government-commissioned report recommends doubling the female culling seasons “as a new normal in Scotland” without the need for such authorisations.

"These seasons were hard won and put in place to protect females from being culled in September. September culls increase the risk of dependent calves starving to death in public forests,” he warned.

But a spokeswoman for NatureScot, the country's nature agency, said no such culling licence has been issued on the island this year and that they have been in contact with Police Scotland over the incident.

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