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International attention is being given to South Uist, where the community is set to vote on whether they should gradually exterminate their local red deer population.

And there are similar tensions, too, for a community off Vancouver in Canada - while Monhegan Island in Maine, USA, had a one-time hunt in the mid-1990s to eliminate the deer population. Deer had been introduced in 1955 and Lyme disease had become prevalent, with 13% of the island's residents infected. Five years later new cases of Lyme had been greatly reduced, it is reported.

South Uist has among the highest rates of Lyme disease in the country, according to NHS Western Isles.  Residents have also complained the deer are causing serious road accidents and that they are nuisance animals regularly destroying crops and gardens.

Meanwhile expert groups are disagreeing about the status of the Uist deer. Local campaigners say the deer are relatively new, having been reintroduced in 1975, around two centuries after being eradicated.

The British Deer Society says red deer have been present on South Uist since the last Ice Age until the late 1800s when they were eradicated. Roughly 100 years later, deer were reintroduced to the island, they say – but they insist that South Uist is part of "the red deer refugia, established in 1999."  

According to a study NHS Western Isles, and the universities of Glasgow and Liverpool, "deer were introduced to the Outer Hebrides by humans 4000 years ago (Stanton et al 2016) but went extinct on South Uist until being reintroduced in 1975 from Rum."

But the Scottish Gamekeepers Association claims they are a native species, present since the Ice Age, and "choosing the route of exterminating a species, long native to an area, is an extreme step which will have wide-ranging repercussions."

Around 200 members of Storas Uibhist have signed a petition in favour of the move, and it is reported nationally that almost 1,000 people could attend Monday's vote on the issue.

Campaigners say that deer management is distorting the work of the community land owner Stòras Uibhist. "Freeing up money and people from a loss-making part of the business that the deer are would allow us as a community to focus on exciting forward looking opportunities.

"Deer stalking throughout Scotland is well known for generating only a small number of jobs, while there is now loads of funding, from public and private sources, as well as many employment opportunities in afforestation, peat, biodiversity restoration and many other environmental projects. Uist is a hugely important habitat for Scotland that is well recognised beyond our islands. These kinds of activities should be a priority as they can generate sustainable jobs for the gamekeepers.

"Without the constant disruption by the deer, Stòras could work much more actively and positively with crofters and residents to develop more local food production. Crofting is being increasingly recognised as a model of low intensive farming that can help address food and climate concerns. Again, this is a big priority among funders, from the Scottish Government to charitable funders.

"We could also, as an example, focus real energy on expanding outdoor and nature-based activities, for local families as well as tourists, such as eco and heritage tourism, with mountain biking trails and paths, bothies and shielings, etc.

"Stòras admits that the deer are a loss making part of the business.  The first CEO as much as the current Chair say it is “moving towards profitability”, but we have not achieved this in 17 years.  The result: Stòras Directors and staff spend so much energy and resources desperately trying to get the deer stalking to work financially for the company, that they have far less energy to concentrate on more forward looking and sustainable projects like the Clachan project.  And there is no funding in deer – the Scottish Government's biodiversity strategy calls for radical reductions in deer numbers to enable biodiversity restoration

"If we decide to remove the deer, we can then come together as a community to decide on which alternative land management uses have the greatest impact, economically and socially, and with resources that are no longer needed to prop up a loss-making business.  

"The motion calls for these land uses to be "in accordance with the stated Stòras Uibhist mission of representing their members and community, of facilitating the provision of environmentally conscious projects in line with community needs and in supporting biodiversity.”

"This vote represents a fantastic opportunity to move away from outdated models, left-overs from the privately owned estates, that have not worked for us ... to new ways of realising the potential of the many land assets we own as a community.   It would also reset the often strained relationship between Board and the community to genuinely empower our community to decide on what options we most want Stòras to develop in partnership with crofters, townships and residents."