Glen Coe cull could clear last hill people


Night deer culls could 'clear community'


The National Trust for Scotland Stag cull in Glen Coe is being carried out when Stags are at their weakest after the rutting season.

Photo: red stags in Winter by Michael Callan.

A controversial out-of-season deer cull could clear the last ‘hill people’ from Glen Coe.

That is the fear of Scotland’s gamekeepers, who believe a National Trust for Scotland tree regeneration plan will close a chapter in Scotland’s cultural heritage.

National Trust contractors have begun a cull of Stags, out-of-season and at night, which will see local populations in the iconic Glen reduced from an average of 8 deer per sq km to only 1 deer per sq km in some parts.

Worried local deer stalkers have told the Trust that, if the regeneration plan on their nature reserve is to have any chance of succeeding, they will have to kill every last deer in the glen.

Hundreds will have to be shot, with the Trust aware that Stags, weakened by the rut, will be corralled into the glen floor by winter snowfall, trying to find shelter and food.

Once there, they will be easy targets, with deer from Rannoch Moor and Glen Etive- location of the famous Skyfall scene- filtering into the area to be shot.

Glen Coe

Already there are reports of deer ‘grallochs’ or entrails being left metres from a public road, and reports of a shot Stag almost hitting a driver’s van as it rolled down a hillside in Glen Etive. *( see foot of story- view of contractor)

Deer grallochs (entrails) lie metres from a public road in Glen Etive. The glen was a location for Harry Potter and James Bond films. The out-of-season cull is being undertaken by contractors for National Trust for Scotland.

Pictures have emerged of blood stained snow not far from the site of the infamous night massacre of MacDonald clansmen by government forces in 1692.

“We are deeply concerned for the futures of our members and their families,” said Alex Hogg, MBE, Chairman of The Scottish Gamekeepers Association.

“This is a fragile community. If ever there was an argument to say that socio-economic impacts should be properly considered, it is here.

“Put simply, if the deer go, so will the last remaining hill people and their families in Glen Coe and the surrounding area. 

“We will be writing to Scottish Government, in the first instance, to ask what socio-economic impact assessments have been done and if a seed source exists for trees to regenerate from.

“The local stalkers are not against regeneration. They are not unreasonable. Given the impacts and topography, they just feel this is the wrong place. The environment is important but, as part of a Just Transition, people and communities must be considered, too. Their view is that their jobs are not being considered at all.”

For over a thousand years, the bottom of Glen Coe has been a winter migration ground for deer for miles around; something reflected in Gaelic place names such as Larig Eilt (‘the pass of the hind’) and Altnafeadh (‘the burn of the deer’).

Twelve local jobs and family homes are still dependent on deer stalking today, as well as indirect and seasonal jobs, with stalkers’ kids attending local schools.

Very few sources of alternative employment exist for the workers in the area.

Outside of winter, when the snow brings the deer in from elsewhere, current average population densities throughout the glen are below the Scottish Government’s nationwide target of 10 deer per sq km. 

As well as anxiety over jobs and deer welfare, shots are also being fired in the dark, close to the busy A82, which is classed as one of the most memorable driving routes in Scotland.

“If this is what comes to pass, the stalkers want the public to know why, and who is doing it. They want to give voice to their community. In this glen, it will be like taking the reindeer from the Sami people,” added Alex Hogg.


Image 1: Deer remains lie visible, close to a public road in Glen Etive- famously used as a setting for the James Bond film, Skyfall. Photos taken on Friday 9th December and sent to SGA by a road user.

Image 2: Deer grallochs (entrails) left close to a public road in Glen Etive, where scenes from Harry Potter were also filmed: see below for explanation.


*The SGA has spoken to the contractor on the ground who provided an explanation of images received by the SGA. The contractor was aware of the grallochs and noted he would return to the site because they were closer to the road than he would have ideally liked. He did return and removed them for that reason shortly after the photo was taken, which the SGA welcomes. The contractor stated that the photos did not provide an accurate reflection, given where they were taken from, and would not have been seen by the general public. The SGA respects this perspective and is happy to place this on the record. The contractor said that, although out-of-season and night authorisations have been granted to NTS, they have not yet been used in Glen Etive; the main target area being Glen Coe.


Further Notes


  • Average deer densities throughout the glen are 8 per sq km. This is below Scottish Government’s recommended targets. Surrounding estates carry out environmental and community work and are helping deliver environmental goals.


  • When NTS undertook a similar cull at Mar Lodge Estate in the Cairngorms, cull targets had to be persistently reviewed in the tree regeneration zone until the policy finally became zero tolerance when regeneration was not happening, as modelled. An independent investigation into the policy at Mar Lodge documented negative impacts for neighbouring estates. Deer Stalkers fear the same outcome in Glen Coe which was documented at Mar Lodge Estate.


  • In order to cull the deer, NTS contractors will either have to shoot from the edge of the A82 or towards it, in the dark. This can only legally be done if it doesn’t cause public disruption, fear or alarm.


  • Because this cull is being undertaken in winter, under licence, the topography means deer from miles of surrounding land will be drawn in, not just deer on NTS’s nature reserve. Deer will funnel in from Glen Etive, Rannoch Moor, Larig Eilt and Altnafeadh.


  • Accordingly, while NTS may meet their objective (this is far from certain and is indeed questioned by local stalkers), surrounding neighbours will inevitably lose income from visiting guest shooters, who also stay in local hotels and spend money in the area. This will impact 12 jobs directly and many more indirectly.


  • When deer are managed for venison, stalkers will remove the grallochs (entrails) and leave them as sustenance for eagles and other wildlife. However, best practice is to lay these away from areas of public footfall, if possible (see contractor's explanation above).


  • The winter, out of season cull will be happening at the time when Stags are physically at their weakest after the rutting season, where males will fight, sometimes to the death, for the right to mate with females (hinds). The legal close seasons were put in place to protect deer welfare at this time as Stags will have lost a considerable percentage of their body weight. Should the cull extend into March, heavily pregnant hinds will also be shot which will concern the public and animal welfare groups.


  • The Scottish Animal Welfare Commission defines animal sentience as: ‘the ability to have physical and emotional experiences, which matter to the animal, and can be positive and negative.


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