Page last updated at 12:21 GMT, Monday, 1 March 2010

Animal charity seeks deer cull amid starvation fears

Deer on snow peak
The SWT said large numbers of deer were starving to death

A conservation charity has called for the annual cull of deer in Scotland to continue because large numbers of the animals are starving to death.

The Scottish Wildlife Trust said the harsh winter had left many deer suffering through lack of food.

It wants them culled to prevent "inhumane suffering" and further damage to Scotland's environment caused by large deer populations.

The stalking period for female deer in Scotland ended on 15 February.

The charity said deer numbers in Scotland had reached record levels due to the absence of natural predators.

I understand that this might surprise some people, but our reasoning is sound
Simon Milne
SWT chief executive

Together, the population of the country's two native species, the red deer and the roe deer, total more than 350,000 - about double the numbers recorded 50 years ago.

Simon Milne, SWT's chief executive, said: "We are a wildlife protection charity calling for more deer to be culled.

"I understand that this might surprise some people, but our reasoning is sound.

"Red deer numbers have been steadily increasing in recent decades to the point where, in some areas, they are causing damage to the natural environment."

Mr Milne said the animals were facing a "double whammy" because they were competing for limited food and also had to contend with prolonged wintery weather.

He added: "Red deer are really a woodland species and the now treeless environment of many parts of Scotland simply does not satisfy their basic need for shelter, particularly in bad weather.

"Too many deer and not enough food is resulting in starvation."

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