Angry residents have hit out at a proposed cull of red deer in Glenisla, claiming that it is unnecessary and cruel.
Between now and the end of February, nearly 700 deer are to be shot in the Caenlochan area, which includes Glenisla Estate.
The cull has been ordered by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), which took over the role of “promoting conservation and sustainable management of deer in Scotland” from the Deer Commission in 2010.
Estate owner Major John Gibb, who farms the land, said: “We have just found out that SNH wants 690 red deer shot between now and the end of February in the Caenlochan area, which includes Glenisla.
“They say that red deer numbers should be 19 per square kilometre but that figure is just plucked out of the sky in my opinion – it was 35 around seven or eight years ago and SNH may want to lower it even further.
“The numbers of deer have come down far enough, this is borne out by their helicopter counts. The deer that are on the ground at present have come down from higher ground and are looking for food and shelter.
“We are trying to encourage deer to colonise our ground in greater numbers than they have been in the last two years.”
Hilary Lawrence, whose husband Arthur works on the estate, was also concerned by the news that SNH had ordered the cull.
Speaking to the Blairie, she said: “They have culled the deer in this area before and it was cruel beyond belief. They rounded them up with a helicopter and shot the lot – including hinds and calves – it was carnage.
“The deer here now are not normally resident, and they don’t do any damage, there’s no need for this. There are places in Scotland where they have been over-culled and this is one of them.”
Reports in recent years claimed that the compulsory slaughter the Deer Commission carried out has driven foreign shooters away, with critics saying the move has had an adverse affect on the £100 million Scottish deer-stalking industry.
Major Gibb agrees, saying that people like to go on to the hill to see the deer, and that the animals provide vital employment in a rural area which is increasingly dependent on tourism.
A spokesperson for SNH said: “Red deer have no natural predators in Scotland and that means they have to be managed. There are 440 deer still to be culled in this area, from a total of 5000.
“This work follows a meeting of estates and partners who agreed a sustainable herd density of 19 deer per square kilometre. All local estates have signed up to the work under the section seven agreement.
“We sympathise with the sentiments from Major Gibb. But the fact remains that there are thousands of deer in the area and those involved locally have jointly agreed that a cull will reduce the herd to a more sustainable level.
“This will help local habitats. Deer grazing also has a negative effect on some of Scotland’s internationally important protected habitats.”
The legal culling season ends on Friday this week (February 15) but estates can apply for a two week extension to continue to shoot deer until the end of the month, due to the adverse weather conditions.