GAMEKEEPERS have repeated their warning against the extension of the deer season – and highlighted photographs of out-of-season culling as evidence of the welfare issues involved.

The photos, taken by a local on Skye, emerged on social media last week, showing dead hinds lying inside a new forestry enclosure near Dunvegan, including one with a very large unborn calf lying alongside.

Deer managers can use a General Authorisation to cull deer inside enclosed woodland up to April 1, but the Scottish Gamekeepers Association said that the hind in the picture appears to have been shot many weeks after that cut-off date.

NatureScot, the body that signs off deer authorisations, confirmed on Thursday afternoon that it had not sanctioned any special permissions for the Dunvegan fenced enclosure.

SGA chairman Alex Hogg said: “We are not going to enter into speculation as to what has happened here. What we do know is that one image clearly shows a female, with a very large unborn calf, which has obviously been culled weeks outside of the legal open season.

“Judging by online comments, this is not the type of deer management the people of Skye want to see, climate emergency or not, and we have warned Scottish Government about this very issue before. Deer need to be managed and, in certain circumstances, that has to take place outside of the approved seasons, under authorisation from NatureScot.

“However, the Govt-commissioned Deer Working Group Report recommends doubling the female culling seasons, as a new normal in Scotland, without the need for such authorisations," noted Mr Hogg. "These seasons were hard won and put in place to protect females from being culled in September. September culls increase the risk of dependent calves starving to death in public forests.

“The seasons were also put in place to avoid culling females when they are so heavily pregnant in April that their calves could almost stand by themselves. This is the type of management which has clearly reviled those who have seen the photographs and contacted ourselves," he said. “We urge Scottish Government not to sanction changes which will make this type of deer management the standard in Scotland, whether for tree planting, conservation or anything else.”

The Dunvegan forestry scheme has reportedly caused local tensions, with some islanders aggrieved that productive crofting land has been subsumed into a state-funded rewilding project.