Photo: red stags in Winter by Michael Callan.
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.
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)
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.