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Anger in response to bid to eradicate deer

Deer have been at the centre of debate on the island of South Uist, with an increasing number of residents complaining about damage, reports David Tomlinson

deer on road

Deer are valuable to the fieldsports economy on the island

Members of a community-owned company are to vote on a proposal to eradicate deer from their island.

The island of South Uist was bought out in November 2006 by a community-controlled company called Stòras Uibhist. The company paid more than £4.5m to buy South Uist and the neighbouring islands of Eriskay and Benbecula. However, controversy has dogged the buyout with a blazing row hitting the national papers in 2018 when the company board granted a licence to a private company to collect seaweed from the island’s shores. Collection of seaweed to use as fertiliser is a traditional right of crofters on the island.

Now Shooting Times has seen the text of a resolution which is to be placed before the company’s members that calls for the total eradication of deer from the Island. Justifying the proposal, the member who tabled it claimed that “the deer are the cause of many accidents and near-misses”. The member cited the high rates of Lyme disease on the island and concluded that “the blood sport of shooting animals for entertainment is incompatible with the image and ethos of a community company”.

Local resident Julian Nicholas told Shooting Times that deer have been the centre of tensions on the island for some time. He said: “Since I have been here I have witnessed the increasing complaints from a small minority of residents, not just the crofters, about the damage and danger the deer are causing.

“The gamekeepers in the summer and autumn are patrolling the estate first thing and last thing on the west side and pushing any deer back to the east where there is little population or crofted land. But estate keepers and families have been harassed in the shops, school and so on by some of the more vocal individuals.”

The letter proposing the measure suggested that the real issues behind the call may lie deeper in the dynamics of the community. In a telling section, the author wrote: “Community concerns are not being listened to and anyone raising them is deemed to be agitating against Stòras.”

The company board has recommended against the measure, citing potential legal challenges and the impact on the island’s valuable fieldsports economy. The vote takes place on 20 March.