Police probe into Assynt deer with jaw left hanging off


Stalker Michael Ross, an SGA member, tracked the injured deer for 5 days in order to put it out of its misery


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.

The incident and other community sightings of wounded deer have all 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’, calling for a licence suspension.

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

The Trust issued a proactive media statement on the Monday morning, denying responsibility.

Although the Stag was first spotted heading away from the Trust’s Quinag property, they are the only body in the area legally allowed to shoot deer at the moment, because of the special licence.

"This will happen to more deer."

“This will happen to more deer,” said Michael Ross, an SGA member who despatched the injured Stag after receiving a call to say the animal had been spotted heading down the Allt na Claise burn, which runs off Quinag. (see main image above).

“After I shot it, I didn’t go to the press, I documented what had happened and I emailed John Muir Trust directly, copying in NatureScot and the Deer Management Group representative.”

He added: “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 despatched.

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

At one point, a 7-strong team of nearby estate stalkers, community members and tracker dogs searched for the starving Stag which was unable to eat for days due to its facial injury (below).

The Stag with its jaw injury clearly visible. John Muir Trust are the only group with a licence to shoot deer at this time of year.

One disgusted individual, who accompanied the party, has written to John Muir Trust regarding their culling policy at Quinag and intends to file a complaint.

In separate incidents, a local man, fishing with his sons opposite Quinag on New Year’s Eve had to console his youngest after the distressed youth was witness to the wounding of a young hind in the stomach.

Another local man saw a laboured and stumbling Stag to the west of Kylesku, visible from the roadside, which he suspected had been mis-shot.

After later attempts to follow it, he found blood spots and markings suggesting the animal had been lying for some time before being removed.

CEO part of the deer control team

In a media update in December, John Muir Trust said they had applied to NatureScot to shoot deer outside of the closed season to enable the recovery of ‘remnant woodlands’.

The charity’s own CEO David Balharry was cited in the press statement as one of the registered stalkers who would be carrying out the night shooting - a practice banned in many European countries for welfare and public safety reasons.

Mr Balharry, a former Director of Rewilding Scotland, was appointed in January 2020. 

He previously worked as a Technical Director of the Deer Commission (now NatureScot) at the time the Commission carried out a mass deer cull at Glenfeshie, which led to angry protests.


You can read the eye witness accounts which has been sent to the SGA by local community members by clicking here: 




The SGA is supporting its members within the Assynt community who are fearful of their jobs because of the night and out-of-season licence being operated by John Muir Trust.



Fieldsports Channel TV 


The developing Assynt story was covered this week in a special film by Fieldsports Channel TV.

You can watch it, here: 



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