GOVERNMENT culls of deer are leaving fawns abandoned – left “to die a slow death from starvation” – according to experts.
More than one in five deer killed by Forest Enterprise Scotland (FSE) – the body which runs the country’s woodlands – are shot at night using a technique known as “lamping.”
The agency has killed tens of thousands of deer in this way to control populations over the last fifteen years.
But now experts have claimed that the technique – which makes it impossible to avoid hitting females with young – is being used too often, with licences to hunt at night granted too freely.
David Quarrell – who heads the South Lanarkshire deer group – has accused bosses at Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) of flouting their own rules by granting the licenses too freely.
He said: “We have successfully managed deer in urban areas for 25 years…including commercial forestry…and parks and woods with high use by the general public, which can make deer management a challenge.
“In all that time, we have managed the deer in daylight, in season, and following the best practice set by SNH.
“We have never once needed a lamp and would never use one.
“When you use a lamp at night, you know what you are shooting at is a deer…but that’s about it.
“As a total wipeout method, it is the best there is, but all research says it is indiscriminate compared with shooting at daylight.
“The danger is that mothers can be shot, leaving dependent babies to die a slow death from starvation.
A spokesman for the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) said: “Shooting at night is supposed to be for ‘emergency’ situations.
“We are concerned that it seems to be more of a first, rather than a last, resort which goes against good deer management practice and the SNH’s own guidelines on deer control.
“They have a duty to follow their own regulations.”
The FES has culled around 374,000 deer in the past 15 years – 80,500 of which were shot at night.
An FES spokesman said night shooting was used for health and safety reasons, because estates tended to be busy during the day.
He added: “Highly trained and properly qualified staff or contractors use spotlights and sometimes thermal imaging to identify the sex of the deer before shooting…so that we don’t shoot females that may have youngsters.”