Page last updated at 08:22 GMT, Monday, 15 February 2010

Harsh Scottish winter leaves starving deer

Red stag
It is feared thousands of deer could starve to death

Thousands of deer are thought to be at risk of starvation in Scotland following this year's harsh winter.

Hillwalkers across the country are being warned they will almost certainly come across dead or dying animals.

The annual cull of red deer hinds has now ended but several estates stopped shooting weeks ago when it became clear large numbers were dying.

In Sutherland, there are fears that an entire generation will be lost due to the winter weather.

Deer stalking plays an important role in the economy of rural Scotland and sporting estates believe the effects of the big freeze could be felt for years to come.

Landowners said the deaths were the result of the extreme conditions and have not been caused by poor management or over-population.

The roe deer cull is still under way and the Deer Commission for Scotland is urging landowners to prevent further suffering by continuing to shoot animals which are unlikely to survive until spring.

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