Blood on the tracks.

4th February 2015

Highly varied snow and stability distribution.

Highly varied snow and stability distribution.

Whole spectrum of snow conditions at the moment. Vast tracts of windslab on most aspects that have a bit of ‘South’ on them, but with really contrasty conditions and abrupt transitions in many locations. The large bulge of wind-etched windslab in the photo above sits just under the ridgeline, which itself is hard snow-ice. More snow-ice below the bulge, then a mix of crusty snow-ice and sintered sastrugi.

Evidence that SNH Creag Meagaidh stalkers were out shooting last night.

Evidence that SNH Creag Meagaidh stalkers were out shooting last night.

For those winter visitors who are new to Creag Meagaidh it must be a little alarming to see great gobs of blood trailed across the snow but it’s always because the SNH stalkers have been out shooting deer.

The photo was taken this morning quite some time after the stalkers’ 2am return to Aberarder after night shooting in the woods. The carcasses are carried back to the state-of-the-art deer larder & cold store on ‘Argocats’ and other impressive all terrain vehicles. Not surprising that there can sometimes be a little seepage of body fluids when the carcasses are transported over steep, rough tracks.

I’ve occasionally come across traces of blood smeared over the snow in quite remote locations, too, and this occurs when the ‘beasts’ (as the stalkers call them) are man-hauled off the hill down to a low altitude cache for uplift by an Argocat or suchlike.  On one occasion I came across the boys just after a cull and assisted with dragging a deer carcass downhill. It was a 14 stone brute (the deer, that is..) and I think I managed about 400m before I collapsed in a sweaty heap….that’s down hill & over snow and rough heather: utterly knackering work.

The projected total cull for this year is 180 beasts (100 stags & 80 hinds), and for the stags takes place between July and October. The hinds are shot from October to February. Sometimes dispensation is given for out of season shooting in designated areas. It’s interesting that visitors to Creag Meagaidh in no way interfere with the shooting even though visitor numbers are up from 6000 in 2008 to 21,000 last year. Rory Richardson, the SNH estate manager, cannot recall a single incidence of visitor presence precluding stalking activities.

Creag Meagaidh is not a ‘sporting’ estate so what’s the purpose of the deer cull? If you look at the photo, quite coincidentally, there’s some young birch growing by the side of the track, and this is what it’s all about. SNH are striving to keep deer density at 5 deer per square kilometre in order to prevent over-browsing on the birch trees which is the native, and quite ancient, tree species at ‘Meggie. A balance between deer numbers and browsing damage is the target, not total elimination of the deer. The evidence of SNH’s success is visible to anyone who walks up the Coire Ardair path through the naturally regenerating juvenile birch woods. They weren’t there 25 years ago.

The Dylan reference. I’m a baby-boomer. We may have snapped up all of yesteryear’s cheap housing and made you pay for our pensions….but we did bequeath you some iconic music!

Comments on this post

  • Grant Duff
    4th February 2015 9:39 pm

    14 stone is a healthy brute and the year gone by all accounts seems to have been a great one for fattening of deer. The birch on the reserve have grown and grown since the deer numbers have been managed.

    Nice report once again.


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