The Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) has repeated its condemnation of the use of helicopters to cull deer following claims the illegal practice is being operated in Scotland.
Reports emerged yesterday that a hill-walker witnessed helicopters being used to round up deer to be shot at Corrour Estate in Lochaber on October 31st; a claim denied by estate officials.
The walker claimed shooting went on for about two hours and that 120-130 gunshots were fired after deer were herded towards marksmen waiting to cull them as part of the estate management plan.
Using helicopters to coral or ‘group’ deer for culling is illegal under the Deer Act (Scotland) and raises major animal welfare questions.
Police confirmed they are investigating the claims after the hill-walker brought the sighting to the attention of East Highland Crofting Commissioner, Donnie Ross.
Mr Ross said it was his belief this type of practice was becoming an increasing problem across Scotland.
Last night SGA Chairman Alex Hogg said the deployment of helicopters had no place in deer management other than for the counting of deer.
He also said it was no way to treat a species regarded by the Scottish public as symbolic of the nation.
“Although the current case is entirely a matter for the Police to investigate, the SGA would like to reiterate its deep concern at the practice of using helicopters to herd and shoot deer.
“When the Wild Deer Best Practice Guidance was drawn up, specifically on the issue of the use of helicopters in culling, the SGA made a point of having it written down that we did not agree with this practice whatsoever and could not endorse it.
“We saw this taking place and made a video of it at Glenfeshie Estate in the Cairngorms and, for traditional stalkers in Scotland, this policy is simply anathema. There are also major animal welfare issues surrounding it.
“When deer are stalked traditionally on the open hill, the hinds will flee naturally after one shot is fired. The key thing is that they can escape and that is respected.
“When helicopters are used like collie dogs, the deer are held in one area for long periods. They get herded towards the rifles and, if they escape, they get brought back in again. They are held for far too long and the deer get exhausted and highly stressed. In fact, there is so much lactic acid built up in their muscles, they are not even fit for human consumption afterwards, which is an inexcusable waste of a natural product and resource.
“It is simply something we cannot, as an organisation, agree with.”
Corrour Estate officials have admitted helicopters are used on their holding but only to transfer people to remote parts or pick up deer carcasses from inaccessible areas.