The deer situation is getting out of control

Concern is mounting over the damage caused by marauding deer across the islands, with large numbers now present on the road-sides, crofts and even gardens, creating a nuisance and a danger to motorists.

By Murray MacLeod
Thursday, 28th April 2022, 10:46 am
Updated Thursday, 28th April 2022, 10:48 am
At a crossroads: Deer are now common-place round houses and road sides, with calls for concerted control efforts. Pic: Ali Finlayson.

While far from a new issue, there is overwhelming anecdotal evidence of the situation getting worse every year, with calls increasing for a co-ordinated management approach by estates across the island, both community-owned and private.

A Lewis and Harris Deer Management Group was formed in 2018, in line with a number of other similar groups across Scotland to manage the problem, but has made little in-roads in tackling the scourge. There is a suggestion that lockdown has presented additional challenges, in that shooting was suspended for a long period.

Stornoway Trust factor Iain MacIver said that deer encroaching into villages was “becoming more and more of a problem”, but felt a cull “in itself is not the answer”.

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"It’s a very divisive issue,” he said. “We get complaints from people who want them culled and complaints from people who don’t want them culled and just want them moved.

"The big issue is the moorland that once kept them is no longer in a state that keeps them there. It is not managed and not grazed so the deer move to the lush pastures near villages.”

North Lochs resident Stephanie Sargent said there had been a notable increase in numbers since lockdown.

“We never saw any deer at all prior to spring/summer of 2020. You would see them on the main roads occasionally and in remote places, but never within these villages, “ she said.

“Now colleagues and friends regularly report that their hard-won efforts in garden or croft have been decimated by deer incursion.”

She called for a concerted plan across the islands, saying that not only is there damage to property but they are “menace on the road”.

"It isn't just going to go away. The only threat to deer is people with guns, otherwise their populations will carry on expanding, as they have been doing.”