Red deer set to be culled on Scottish estate due to 'absentee' owner

Red deer are set to be culled on the grounds of a Scottish estate belonging to an ‘absentee’ landlord in a bid to protect both the environment and sites special scientific interest.

Stalkers from NatureScot have been on the grounds of Loch Choire Estate in the Scottish Highalnds to carry out an initial cull.

Little or no culling has taken place on the estate in recent years, causing concerns about growing deer numbers.

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Experts said the animals significantly impact peatlands, woodlands and other habitats in the area – a large proportion of which is covered by protected area designations.

Red deer are set to be culled at the vast Scottish estate. Picture: Getty Images

Four sites of special scientific interest wholly or partly falling on the estate's land.

NatureScot said the estate owner had not responded to repeated efforts to engage and find alternative solutions.

The intervention was taken after the owner failed to respond to a formal request under the Deer (Scotland) Act 1996 to carry out a proportionate and timely cull of deer.

Donald Fraser, NatureScot's head of wildlife management, said reducing deer numbers was vital to tackle climate change.

He said: "While deer are an iconic species and form an important part of our biodiversity, their high numbers and lack of natural predators mean that they can have a negative impact on peatlands, woodlands and other habitats.

"Sustainable deer management is vital if we are to bring populations in balance with nature and effectively tackle the twin crises of biodiversity loss and climate change.

"While we always favour a voluntary and collaborative approach to deer management, NatureScot will not hesitate to make use of the full range of powers available to us when necessary, to secure vital benefits for nature and climate.

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"We put welfare at the heart of all our wildlife management decisions and all culling by our qualified and authorised staff is carried out to the highest standards of professionalism and best practice."

The estate owner has not been named by NatureScot. However, it is believed the property was bought in 2015 by an owner believed to be based in the Shropshire area.

Sir Michael Wigan, chairman of the local East Sutherland Deer Management Group, said: "The Deer Management Group is supportive of NatureScot's approach here due to the lack of this estate's efforts to manage deer populations on the property and the need for local collaboration, which is important for effective and sustainable upland red deer management."

Duncan Orr-Ewing, chairman of Scottish Environment LINK's Deer Group, said: "We fully support this responsible action by NatureScot.

"In the context of the climate and nature emergencies, sustainable deer management – carried out humanely by expert stalkers – is required to reduce deer populations in some areas.

"Full co-operation by all relevant landowners is required to help deliver the public interest."

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