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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 February, 2004, 15:35 GMT
Anger over flying squad deer cull
Red deer
The measure has been attacked as a "waste of money"
A cull of 80 deer in the Cairngorms by a flying squad of trained marksmen has caused uproar.

Seven contract stalkers were flown in by helicopter to carry out the killing mission on the Glenfeshie Estate.

The Deer Commission ordered the cull, claiming the deer had to be killed in a bid to protect the regeneration of the native Caledonian Pine Forest.

But the move has been branded "heavy handed" by objectors including staff at the Cairngorms National Park.

The commission ordered the cull under legal emergency powers to protect the local environment on the estate, which is described as the jewel in the Cairngorms crown.

We deployed professional stalkers to undertake a culling operation to prevent serious damage to an internationally important woodland
Deer Commission
Gregor Rimell, Cairngorms National Park representative for the area, said the move was a waste of money.

He added: "This has just been an antagonistic exercise and a gross misuse of public money.

"There was no correspondence and the cull came as a shock to the factor. I don't know why a helicopter was needed and why the cull was carried out in deep snow.

"The factor and his wife are both young, local people with lots of experience of the land and the surrounding estates.

"I would have thought it was not beyond the wit of the Deer Commission of Scotland to work with them rather than acting in such a heavy-handed manner."

Deer reconnaissance

Estate factor Thomas MacDonnell declined to comment, saying the matter was now in the hands of a solicitor.

Deer numbers on the estate have caused dispute in the past.

The estate has wanted numbers to be kept high to ensure enough stags for the landowner and guests to shoot for sport.

But the ancient pine forest, part of the Caledonian forest which once covered all of Scotland, has been reducing in size because of overgrazing by large numbers of deer.

The estate factor said the matter is in the hands of a solicitor
Deer Commission director Nick Reiter said: "We deployed professional stalkers to undertake a culling operation to prevent serious damage to an internationally important woodland and natural heritage site.

"The Deer (Scotland) Act 1996 places duties on the Deer Commission to deal with the adverse impacts by deer in agriculture, woodlands, the natural heritage and public safety."

He said a reconnaissance of the area was carried out and identified 397 animals - a density of 95 deer per square kilometre.

Mr Reiter added that a helicopter was required because of the poor weather and remote location.

National park convener Andrew Thin said all parties should now be brought together at an emergency meeting to resolve the matter.

The 42,000-acre estate was bought in 2001 by Danish businessman Flemming Skoube for a reported 8.5m.

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