The deer situation is spiraling out of control

At a crossroads: Deer are now commonplace around homes and roadsides, with calls for concerted control efforts. Photo: Ali Finlayson.

Although far from a new problem, there is overwhelming anecdotal evidence that the situation is getting worse every year, with growing calls for a coordinated management approach by estates across the island, both community and private.

A Lewis and Harris Deer Management Group was formed in 2018, in line with a number of other similar groups across Scotland to manage the problem, but has made little progress in tackling the scourge. There is a suggestion that the lockdown has presented additional challenges, as filming has been suspended for an extended period.

Stornoway Trust postman Iain MacIver said deer encroachment into villages was “increasingly becoming a problem” but said culling “in itself is not the solution”.

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“It’s a very controversial issue,” he said. “We get complaints from people who want them shot and complaints from people who don’t want them shot and just want them moved.

“The big problem is that the moorland that once held them is no longer in a state that keeps them there. It is unmanaged and ungrazed, so the deer move to the lush pastures near the villages.”

North Lochs resident Stephanie Sargent said there had been a noticeable increase in numbers since the lockdown.

“We never saw deer until spring/summer 2020. You saw them occasionally on main roads and in remote places, but never in these villages,” she said.

“Now colleagues and friends regularly report that their hard-earned efforts in the garden or farm have been decimated by the deer incursion.”

She called for a concerted plan across the islands, saying not only is there property damage, but they are “a threat down the road”.

“It’s not just going to go away. The only threat to deer is people with guns, otherwise their populations will continue to increase, as they have.”