Keepers of an Inverness beauty spot are urging people to show greater respect to nature after several trees were hacked down.
Conservationists of Merkinch Local Nature Reserve are working diligently to expand and revitalise the area.
However, their efforts have been hampered for a second time after several trees were torn down.
An investigation was previously launched by police in May last year after a tree was cut down and stolen from the central path of the reserve.
Bringing the latest act of vandalism to attention on social media, officials said the only felling that should be conducted is of standing dead and dangerous trees by Colin Harness and his father.
Project manager Caroline Snow urged those responsible to pause and consider the impacts such vandalism could have on nature and the upcoming nesting season.
She said: “Across the reserve we are trying to manage the trees that we have and get rid of the ones that are dangerous but we are also going to a lot of bother to plant trees and care for them.
“We plant them and tend to them and people are just coming and cutting them down which isn’t cool.
“Trees take a while to establish and we lost some in a storm a good few years back and they are all part of the natural balance.
“Whilst all that is a shame, the most important thing is that whoever has been doing it stops very soon as the birds will be nesting. It’s meant to be a reserve where nature can be at one and I think humans need to give certain spaces where there can be.”
Conservationists are currently working to expand the future of the Inverness based reserve by planting more than 300 hundred new trees.
It has come to our attention that someone is cutting/hacking down live trees in the Reserve The only cutting that…
A selection of birch and hazel trees will be planted in the coming years as well as hawthorn and black thorn.
Local residents have also pledged their support for the cause by harvesting half of the trees – donated by the Woodland Trust – which will be planted across the reserve at a later date.
Ms Snow urges those who perhaps need support to reach out to the relevant parties in an effort to help retain the beauty of the popular area.
She added: “Perhaps people are really broke just now and they have an open fire and are just thinking, it’s the difference between keeping warm or freezing.
“I do get that times might be hard but there are others ways to get a winter fuel allowance. Organisations like Merkinch Partnership can help people to claim and find support.
“Not everyone can just come and help themselves to what they need because there wouldn’t be very much left and that would be a shame for humans as well as wildlife.”
The project is one in a number of initiatives underway by officials.
Efforts to replace the existing boardwalk in the area are also gaining momentum as the group work to secure funding to cover the extensive programme of works.
The 30-year-old wooden structure fell into a state of disrepair and was closed in August.
Funding has already been secured from Sustrans with the remaining balance being sought through the Highland Council’s common good fund.