Accounts of injured deer heighten concern in Assynt




Sickened Assynt locals fear their community is being stained by animal welfare breaches following an incident and eye witness accounts of mis-shot and injured deer near Quinag.

Police opened inquiries this week after a Stag suffered for five days with its jaw hanging off before being tracked and humanely despatched by a professional deer stalker at Ardvar (see above).

The incident and other community sightings of wounded deer have occurred since environmental charity John Muir Trust was granted a licence by NatureScot to shoot deer outside the legal closed season at their Quinag property.

Local crofters have described the Trust’s actions as ‘gratuitous killing’ and have called for a licence suspension.

John Muir Trust staff opted to report the incident involving the injured Stag to Police themselves after being mailed about it last weekend by the neighbouring stalker, who had put the animal out of its misery.




Below, are some accounts of what's been occurring on the ground during the period in which the night and out-of-season authorisation granted to John Muir Trust by NatureScot has been operational. See previous stories, below:



These accounts have been shown to the SGA by concerned community members. The SGA represents professional deer managers in the area, whose jobs are likely to be impacted by the out-of-season culls at Quinag.


Account of stalker, Michael Ross (pictured above) who humanely despatched the Stag.

My name is Michael Ross, for 29 years I have been the stalker on Ardvar Estate.
Given the discussions that there have been on social media about the out of season and night shooting licenses issued by Nature Scot to The John Muir Trust for their Quinag property in Assynt I wish to provide this factual account for SGA members and interested members of the public.
My wife received a phone call on Monday the 16th January from a local woman to say she had seen a stag coming down the Allt Na Claise burn which runs off Quinag  ( neighbouring Ardvar) with its jaw hanging off and lame. A natural instinct for a wounded animal to head for lower ground and shelter, especially in the adverse weather conditions.
It was getting dark by the time I received the message, I went out for a look with the spotlight but couldn’t find anything.
The following day the 17th January I tracked the stag through part of the Ardvar woodland as he was leaving small droplets of blood and scuff marks in the snow from dragging his leg. I seen him on two occasions but could not get a shot due to trees and scrub obscuring a clear shot. He could still move quickly despite his injuries.
In the proceeding days neighbouring Estates, members of the public and a local stalker with his tracking dogs joined in the search, 7 people in total.
I shot the stag on the 21st January and took photos for verification. I had another stalker with me who can verify where the stag was despatched.
Obviously the poor animal was in terrible condition with not being able to eat or drink for multiple days because of the horrendous injuries to his face and also a shot to the body.
As the only persons with night shooting and out of season authorisations in this area and no record of poaching taking place locally we believe that JMT are solely responsible for this incident.
Following the incident, upon which Police are making inquiries, the following letter was sent to John Muir Trust by a local who had been involved in the search.
Dear Sir,
I am a resident of Assynt and I would like to make an official complaint with regard to John Muir Trust's out of season/night shooting of stags on Quinag in Assynt, on the grounds of animal welfare and best practice. I was appalled when I first learnt of this shooting regime, with particular regard to the night shooting, knowing that it would be difficult to follow up any potentially injured stags in the dark on the terrain here.
This was compounded last week when on Monday evening (January 16th) a horrendously injured stag was sighted on Ardvar ground by a young woman who lives locally. It is logical that this stag was shot on John Muir Trust ground and worked his way downhill in search of shelter due to his injuries and the harsh weather conditions here last week.
The deer stalker on Ardvar estate, Michael Ross, searched relentlessly for this stag from Monday evening to Saturday (21st January) when the stag was finally found and humanely dispatched. The stag had two previous bullet wounds, one to his body and one to his jaw causing it to hang loose. He must have been in a tremendous amount of pain.
Michael also had the help of experienced stalkers from neighbouring estates and myself during the week. Indeed I glimpsed the stag in the woodland on Tuesday and was very distressed at his injuries. Unfortunately he was moving surprisingly quickly and even with Michael tracking him for the rest of the day, it was impossible for him to get the stag shot.
On Thursday, 7 people and dogs aiming to pick up scent, scoured the woodlands at Ardvar to no avail. Imagine our distress and dismay with not being able to locate an animal we knew to be in tremendous pain. Michael doggedly continued his search on Friday and Saturday and thankfully brought an end to his suffering.
I am proud to know deer stalkers in Assynt who love the land they have lived in and worked on for decades. They have a deep passion and care for all of the wildlife within it and believe all animals deserve a decent and clean death particularly where man is involved. Mistakes happen but human decency should prevail and best practice dictates that this stag should have been followed by the person that shot it, and neighbouring estates informed of the situation.
When incidents like this happen, please do not underestimate the distress and disgust it makes people living locally and beyond feel.
(photo above shows the additional bodily injury to the Stag, prior to despatch)

Eye witness accounts of further incidents


The SGA has been sent accounts of other sightings of wounded deer near Quinag. The first account comes from Alasdair Allen, who was out with his teenage sons, the youngest of whom was left distressed by shootings on New Year's Eve.


"On New Years eve 2022, I was fishing with my 2 boys directly opposite Quinag on the shore below the big cutting on the causeway on the Kylestrome side. My youngest pointed out there was a shot fired from a rifle fitted with a moderator. I said yes I heard it. I know this as I grew up on a shooting estate, am a part time ghillie, and a skill at arms instructor after 22 years in HM Forces. My son said “Dad I can see a man running”.  I could not see him yet but he talked me on to the person, then all 3 of us saw a young hind in severe distress on the shore line shot in the guts trying to get away, I know it was hit, by experience I've seen it before. My youngest was quite distressed watching it, we heard a second shot from the person who had been running, and as he stood up to run again I could see it was over 300yds from hind at least, he missed the hind it carried on moving, stumbling along the shore line until out of sight in to scrub on the right hand side of our view point. We then saw a second person on a quad bike a good 400m to our left making their way down towards the hind, a minute or so past we could see the quad slowly coming down the hill we then head a third shot from a rifle fitted with a moderator but could not see the person shooting, the Quad bike stopped close to where we last saw the young hind, we did not see the hind or the person shooting again after a short while, the quad and its driver were out of site behind cover, this was early afternoon on New Years eve, my youngest was upset by the whole incident and kept asking why are they doing this, and on New Years eve." 

Quinag with a Stag in the foreground

Incident 3 sent to the SGA


The following was sent to us from an individual


“About two weeks ago, a few days before the Ardvar incident that has been reported, I saw in passing what appeared to be a lame stag, just to the west of Kylesku, and visible from the road. At the time I thought it had probably been hit by a vehicle, but its movements were peculiar, something I hadn’t seen before, and I think now, in retrospect, that it was more likely to have been a bullet wound in its body, and that it was suffering from pain and discomfort from that. I didn’t think much of it as I was going on to something else, until a few days later when people were talking about what was going on with JMT.

Curiosity took me to have a look. Despite looking over quite a wide area for it, the animal had gone, but I could see where it had been lying, and I don’t think it would have got too far by itself. I am used to working with livestock, and to me, the pattern of droppings and markings on the ground suggested that an ill animal had been there for a couple of days. Obviously a deer. The animal had obviously been “tidied up” and taken away, and you could see the quad bike marks from that. The fact that we don’t really get any car accidents with deer here, and that the animal had disappeared, despite no-one locally having done this, suggests to me that this was actually a badly shot animal that was subsequently removed after a few days.

JMT and their contractors are out regularly here at the moment, and, of course, the local keepers and everyone else are out too and watching them like hawks. No poacher is going to come in to this area at the moment. It is just too hot. You wouldn’t know who you might trip over in the heather if you ventured off the road here at night.

"This wasn't the Ardvar animal as that is 3-4 miles away, and this animal wasn't going anywhere with an injury like that.”

Deer welfare

There are genuine concerns emerging in the community about deer welfare in the area, as can be seen from the above. NatureScot has not yet said anything to those being impacted by the out-of-season culls about the licence they granted.  

Michael Ross summed up frustration within the community. 


 “We are a quiet community, here. People understand deer management. No one is saying mistakes won’t ever be made but it is a fundamental of best practice and welfare that, if a deer is wounded, you alert your neighbours and follow that animal until it is humanely dispatched.

“No one from here wounded that deer. There are no reports of poaching locally. John Muir Trust is only body around with a licence to be out shooting deer out of season and at night at this time of the year.”


John Muir Trust has denied responsibility for the wounded Stag, see:















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