A Highland estate is offering a substantial reward for information which could convict gangs of poachers they suspect are preying on its deer.
Organised crime gangs with high powered rifles are blasting red deer all over the Highlands to put venison on the nation’s Christmas dinner tables, it is feared.
Donald Houston, owner of Ardnamurchan Estate, has offered a £5,000 reward for information on what he believes to be highly organised gangs behind the operation.
Police are investigating after Mr Houston’s estate was targeted recently. The estate owner said his workers spotted the poachers, who were using rifles fitted with silencers.
William Kelly, manger of Ardnamurchan Estate, said: “The head stalker was out and he saw somebody shooting two deer.
“We then got other estate staff and tried to cut them off. Unfortunately they escaped into the darkness.
We recovered three deer carcasses from the area.
“Poaching is something we try to manage year by year, but this year there seems to be more going on.
“Several estates over Ardnamurchan peninsula have been hit by poachers throughout the summer and up to now.
“A single animal is worth £250 per carcass. These guys are killing our breeding stock and our big stags for future years.
“The people who come and shoot our stags stay in our accommodation and provide income for the castle and the hotel.
“The estate owner has spoken to the local community council and offered £5,000 for information which leads to the arrest and successful prosecution of the poachers.”
Alistair Gibson, chairman of West Lochaber Deer Management Group, who is also manager of Glenfinnan Estate, said: “I am not surprised Ardnamurchan Estate is offering a reward.
“The management group does a poacher patrol every year at this time, because the run up to Christmas we consider is the most frequent time for finding carcasses that have been poached.
“If the deer ultimately disappear the stalkers’ and gillies’ jobs will go. It is our livelihood that they are affecting.
“We are not talking about one for the pot, we are talking about large groups of deer being taken, and not taken professionally. Today’s poachers don’t have the skills of their fathers and grandfathers. They sometimes shoot indiscriminately at the side of the road and in the dark.
“They are probably using illegal firearms.”