Assynt red deer cull defended by John Muir Trust
A landscape conservation charity has defended its proposal to cull up to 100 red deer stags to protect ancient woodlands.
The John Muir Trust (JMT) said its management of deer in its Quinag Estate in Assynt had been criticised locally.
Rather than shoot deer, the trust said it had been urged to fence off sensitive areas of trees.
JMT said fences were expensive, ugly and also prevented deer which remain from feeding in the woodlands.
The trust said the size of Quinag's red deer population was too large and having a damaging impact on woods at Ardvar and Loch a'Mhuilinn.
Trees in the woods were descendants of the first trees to grow in Scotland after the glaciers receded thousands of years ago and support hundreds of other species, it added.
JMT said it was being accused of planning to cull all deer on the estate.
In a statement on its website, the trust said 296 stags were estimated to be on Quinag.
It plans to cull up to 100, but would not take all that number if the impact on trees was reduced.