A leading conservation organisation in Scotland has defended its red deer management policy in the Highlands following criticism from local gamekeepers.

The John Muir Trust, which owns properties covering an area of 24,000ha, says it plans to reduce the number of stags on the Quinag estate in Sutherland by 100, so it can achieve a ?minimum sporting population? while protecting ancient woodland.

However, the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) has urged the trust to review the plans, after complaints from neighbouring sporting concerns that a heightened cull would adversely affect stalking, which is vital to the local economy. A trust spokesman said: ?Heavy browsing by deer prevents trees from regenerating. Scotland already has some of the lowest tree cover in Europe ? we can?t afford to lose more, especially native varieties.

?We don?t believe our aims and the aims of sporting estates need to be mutually exclusive ? some sporting estates choose to manage their deer sustainably to ensure the growth of native woodlands and to meet other conservation objectives.?

The rest of this article appears in the 7th November issue of Shooting Times.

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