Walk­ers asked to avoid dis­turb­ing deer af­ter a near-famine win­ter

The Herald - - NEWS - LUCINDA CAMERON

PEO­PLE out on the hills are be­ing urged to avoid dis­turb­ing deer which have been ex­pe­ri­enc­ing “prob­a­bly the worst con­di­tions for over a decade”.

The an­i­mals have had much higher mor­tal­ity lev­els than nor­mal this year as the se­vere weather has made it hard for them to find food, the Scot­tish Game­keep­ers As­so­ci­a­tion said.

Their food has been buried for months un­der deep and drift­ing snow which has then crusted over with hard frost, leav­ing veg­e­ta­tion vir­tu­ally in­ac­ces­si­ble.

Game­keep­ers said that peo­ple out on the hills this week­end are more likely to en­counter deer than usual as in poor weather the an­i­mals re­treat from the high tops to lower ground for shel­ter and have not yet re­turned to the tops in many ar­eas as they are too weak.

They are urg­ing peo­ple to try to avoid dis­turb­ing the an­i­mals and en­sure that dogs are kept un­der con­trol.

Lea Macnally, of the Scot­tish Game­keep­ers As­so­ci­a­tion, a pro­fes­sional stalker for al­most half a cen­tury, said: “The food source is there, they just can’t get it due to the length of time there has been full snow cover. Ev­ery win­ter there is an ex­pected nat­u­ral mor­tal­ity but there has been much higher than nor­mal mor­tal­ity this year.

“Deer are hav­ing to ex­pend a lot of en­ergy scrap­ing down through frosted snow to get to food and, in many ar­eas, snow hasn’t lifted for a long time. The deers’ backs have not been dry for months and some calves are barely stand­ing.

“If folk are out and about over Easter, where pos­si­ble, they should try and give the deer a wide berth so as not to move them out of shel­ter.

“Dis­tur­bance causes deer to move and, if peo­ple take care to avoid that, it could make the dif­fer­ence be­tween life and death. It would also be pru­dent for dog walk­ers to en­sure pets are un­der close con­trol.”

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