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Island Of Rhum (Deer)

Volume 640: debated on Tuesday 16 May 1961

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asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science how many stags and hinds were culled by the Nature Conservancy on the Island of Rhum in the 1960 stalking season; what was their average weight; and what the total deer count was in the summer of 1960.

One hundred stags and 139 hinds were killed in the 1960–61 season—shooting of hinds continued into the New Year. The average weight was 12½ stone for stags, and 8½ stone for hinds. There was no count of deer made in the summer of 1960, but the spring census up to mid-May 1960 was 1,446 adults.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the only way in which this stalking can be efficiently done is by experienced stalkers? Is my hon. Friend further aware that the weights quoted by him are well below the average for that part of Scotland? Does my hon. Friend appreciate that by not letting stalking the Nature Conservancy is losing income to the extent of about £1,000 a year? Subject to the normal safeguards which are imposed on any sporting rights, will my hon. Friend arrange for stalking to be carried out for the 1961 season?

On the question of the weight of these deer and the extent to which the Nature Conservancy can be held responsible, I will make further inquiries. With regard to my hon. Friend's substantive point, the Nature Conservancy informs me that it does not consider that stalking could be let for a sufficient sum to justify the disorganisation which would inevitably result to the scientific work, particularly as it could be let only to a person with experience of deer, and not to the richest sportsman bidding for it. I understand that for scientific reasons it may, on occasion, be necessary even to cull certain animals.

I agree with what the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball) says about underweight stags and hinds, but can the hon. Gentleman indicate whether, in Rhum, any arrangements are made, as used to be the case in years gone by, for winter feeding in order to keep the deer population in the way it should be kept?

I have no doubt that the Nature Conservancy is doing all that should be done for the proper management of the deer, in the light of the scientific reasons for its being there at all.