The new community owners of Ulva have come under fire over plans to slaughter hundreds of the island’s red deer.
The Inner Hebridean island passed from private to public ownership for £4.6 million just over a fortnight ago after a community buyout.
Now buyout group North West Mull Community Woodland Company is inviting stalkers to lodge expressions of interest to cut deer numbers from an estimated 400 to a maximum of 80 animals. The cull is part of the company’s wider vision to repopulate the island and bring in farming families.
Lochaline stalker Iain Thornber, who has 40 years’ experience, said: “This would be a hell of a slaughter. It’s too high – to reduce deer numbers from 400 to 70 or 80 is just ridiculous.”
He added: “They are putting the cart before the horse. They are saying the deer population is very high, but how do they know?”
There are only five residents on Ulva after the departure of former owner Jamie Howard.
Rich farming fields to the east of the island would be kept deer-free under the plan.
The group wants to produce venison and cash in on sporting clients’ income from a much reduced herd.
The deadline for stalkers to lodge an interest is today.
A community company spokesman said of the advertising for experienced stalkers: “Ultimately we want to achieve a healthy herd, which can sustainably provide a regular flow of high quality venison to the market, as well as providing a modest annual income from sporting clients.”
He added: “One of our priorities, as the new owners of Ulva on behalf of the community, is to manage the deer population.
“The objectives are to bring numbers down to a level which will enable the natural vegetation to recover from overgrazing in recent years, avoid further soil erosion on steep ground, reduce competition with cattle and sheep and eliminate deer from the in-bye fields.
“In the short term, the priority will be to get the numbers down as quickly as practical, but in a humane way and at a rate which can be handled in terms of carcass processing ... we believe a herd of 70 or 80 maximum should be our objective.”
Jim Corbett, vice-chairman of the Mull Deer Management Group, said of the suggested cull: “It seems like a severe reduction from a deer management group point of view.”