A horrified dog walker spoke of her disgust after coming upon a number of deer lying butchered at a popular Highland beauty spot on land owned by a conservation charity.
The female was walking her dog on January 27th in the Nevis Gorge area near Fort William when she found the bloodied torsos of hinds lying dumped in public view on ground owned by John Muir Trust.
Distressed at seeing a female and a calf lying in unnatural positions with back ends cut out, she spoke to a friend who suggested she contacted The Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA).
The SGA has ruled out poaching due to the way the deer have been butchered, and understands the cull will have been part of the charity’s deer management activity.
In 2011, the SGA called a meeting with the charity after it left 40 dead deer in public view at Ben Nevis, shocking access takers.
It feels that conservation bodies leaving carcasses to rot in public cheapens an iconic species and sends a damaging message as efforts are being made to champion Scottish wild venison.
The gamekeepers’ group also believe such images of carved up deer will turn the public against deer managers who are doing great conservation work across the country, reducing red deer populations in recent years.
“The lady didn’t want publicity but she was very upset and asked that we look into it because she loves seeing deer. She was basically disgusted,” said SGA Chairman Alex Hogg.
“The area is well visited and what surprised her most was that this was the last thing she thought she would find in an area owned by a nature conservation charity.”
The images were taken within sight of Steall Bothy, around 50 yards off the main walking track.
Best practice certification for deer managers states that carcasses in such proximity to buildings and public areas should be removed.
John Muir Trust’s controversial deer management approach was in the spotlight 5 years ago.
In 2016, the SGA wrote an Open Letter to the First Minister seeking a Parliamentary inquiry after 86 Stags were left to rot on a Knoydart hillside, some with haunches and heads removed.
The charity’s stalkers culled and left the animals, which were found by walkers, and claimed the deer were too difficult to extract at Li and Coire Dhorcail.
In Assynt, local crofters and land managers clashed with Trust deer controllers after over 400 missing deer were reported following heavy Trust culls, leading to significant lost crofter income.
“Every few years these things seem to happen on John Muir Trust ground. It is not isolated, sadly,” said Bill Cowie of the SGA Deer Group. “Regarding the deer in the photographs, there may have been some access problems extracting them from one side but it is known there is access out from the other. Do the public really want to see this when taking daily exercise? If not, they should write to their MSPs.
“There are families in dire straits, with big demand at food banks. The venison left could have fed a family for weeks.
“Scottish Government has just given £50 000 to promote venison. Is this the signals Scotland should be sending about a resource Government says needs developing?”
*John Muir Trust has claimed the deer were 'dragged from the hill for a photograph' by individuals hostile to them. The individual who sent the SGA the photos did not drag deer from the hill for a photograph.
If anyone in the local area has more information or concerns about deer culling practice in this area, they can contact the SGA on email@example.com