THE Scottish Gamekeepers Association today condemned controversial plans to kill almost 700 female red deer and their calves out of season in a mass “bloodbath” in the Angus glens.
• Plans to kill 690 female red deer out of season condemned by Scottish Gamekeepers Association
• Cull will take place across three estates in Angus glens - Glenisla, Glenshee and Glenprosen
The 690 deer are to be culled around the Caenlochan area of Angus as part of a 10-year target initially set by the Deer Commission for Scotland, now part of Scottish Natural Heritage.
It is understood the mass slaughter will cover three estates in the Angus glens - Glenisla, Glenshee and Glenprosen.
Peter Fraser, vice-chairman of The Scottish Gamekeepers Association and one of Scotland’s most respected “deer champions,” claimed the cull would result in deer being needlessly killed out of season in order to honour a target set a decade ago by the now defunct Deer Commission.
Mr Fraser said: “Killing nearly 700 deer in three weeks raises serious welfare issues and the concern for the animals surely has to kick in. If this was to go ahead, government would be laying itself open to criticism of committing a wildlife crime.”
Mr Fraser claimed that SNH was applying pressure on sporting estates in the glens who had failed to meet the cull agreement of 19 deer per square kilometre. The government agency had originally wanted the 690 extra hinds and calves culled by the close of the stipulated season, which ends today.
But it is now understood an out-of-season licence was put in place to extend the cull period to the end of the month.
Mr Fraser, who retired last year after serving as head stalker for 43 years on the Invercauld Estate on Royal Deeside, is the author of an authoritative study on Scotland’s iconic deer species published in 2012.
And he called for the cull to be abandoned and the target agreements for the Angus cull to be re-examined.
He warned that a cull in harsh winter conditions would be a “serious breach of animal welfare”, and would also endanger the ability of the surviving deer to last out the winter.
Said Mr Fraser: “Due to snow, the deer have been pulled down off the high tops and their movement has been greatly restricted. They will be in large groups and the same deer will be targeted over and over again with little respite, placing them under conditions of insufferable stress over a prolonged period. To rush simply to achieve a cull target is wrong. It will be a bloodbath.”
Damage to habitat and alpine plants by grazing deer in the Caenlochan area was cited as the original reason for the cull target ten years ago.
But Mr Fraser claimed that grazing damage by sheep and hares had been overlooked by the government agencies, who failed to keep promises to assess these impacts.
A spokesman for Scottish Natural Heritage defended the proposed cull, insisting that the cull would follow “best practice”.
He said: “The deer management group in the Angus Glens area is made up of local landowners and partners. It has agreed a sustainable herd density of 19 deer per square kilometre. All local estates have signed up to this work under a section seven agreement.
“At 20 deer per square kilometre the Caenlochan area has higher deer densities than the majority of sporting estates in Scotland. The Scottish and UK Governments could face legal action if the condition of these protected areas, which are in poor condition, are not met.”
He continued: “We are aware of potential welfare issues with culling hinds in heavy snow and for those estates which may be shooting deer until the end of February. Our advice has been to cull selectively and humanely following best practice.”
The spokesman added that culling deer protected trees, natural areas and crops, as well as reducing road accidents.