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Fearless hand-fed deer in Kinlochleven have split village opinion after calls for a cull was contested

A young Red deer stag. Picture by Shutterstock.
A young Red deer stag. Picture by Shutterstock.

Fearless wild deer roaming Highland streets are dividing villagers.

Some residents in Kinlochleven, in Lochaber, say the animals risk health and safety and say a cull, called off after protests, should resume.

While others say the deer are part of the landscape and have a right to live where they like.

The plan to kill the deer in January was halted after an outcry from villagers, who said having animals shot in the street was awful and urged the community to learn to live with animals.

More than 20 deer are making their home around the village, which used to house a giant aluminium smelting works.

Delighted that deer are close by

It is now sustained by tourists walking the West Highland Way and many of them are delighted to see the deer and get close to them.

The Kinlochleven Community Trust (KCT), which owns much of the open space around the village, has taken on the task of finding a solution to the problem. It is working with Government nature agency NatureScot, Highland Council and local landowners.

KCT chairman Steve Connelly said the deer arrived four years ago when a lone stag took up residence in the village.

River flowing through the village of Kinlochleven in the Highlands of Scotland.

The deer attracted some hinds, which, in turn, attracted more animals. He said: “Life has been made too easy for the deer due to them being fed by locals, so they have stayed during the summer now which is very unusual.

They have continued to feed them which has made them reliant and quite unhealthy.”

He added that, while the deer delight many people – including visitors to his B&B – they chase and frighten some residents and dogs, they scatter excrement in play parks and other spaces and they carry large numbers of ticks.

Last week he had one report of a dog being bitten by a deer.

He said: “The deer are majestic and the ability to get that close to a wild animal is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“What’s happening now is the deer are losing their fear of both people and domestic animals and in some cases they are actually starting to intimidate and in one case attack people and pets.”

Cull was stalled

An initial cull was started in January, but some residents objected. Betty Green, who is in her 80s, says deer had been in the village for many years.

In January she heard two shots in the middle of the night, and saw a hind with two young running away.

Not long afterwards she saw a stag’s carcass being dragged away.

She said: “It was a beautiful stag that I had got to know personally and seen around here for years. This is not an acceptable thing to do in a built-up area like this.”

The cull ended after that incident, to the relief of some.

Mr Connelly said KCT had tried to stop deer being fed by people with a Facebook campaign and notices, but he said a “hardcore” of residents refused to accept feeding the deer was an issue. He now plans a meeting to thrash out the issue.

“Everybody can put their views and we will see the proportions that are supporting or are against a cull, because I think a cull is the only way forward,” he said.

“People have to be realistic. Deer that are born in an area will always want to return, so the only way we are going to get rid of the deer at the moment is by holding a cull.”

NatureScot said the cull was paused in April when licences expired, and since then it has been working with KCT, Highland Council, Jahama Highland Estates and a local Highland councillor on the remaining issues. It added: “We expect a meeting within the next few weeks so we can consider our options.”

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