BDS visit Creag Meagaidh

BDS visit Creag Meagaidh

BDS visit Creag Meagaidh. On Saturday 28th October 2023, members of the BDS (British Deer Society) Highland Branch visited the Creagh Meagaidh National Nature Reserve (NNR), owned and managed by NatureScot. The NNR is located on the north shore of Loch Laggan along the A86 between Fort William and Newtonmore. The 4,000 hectare reserve has designated walks for all abilities, is a haven for wildlife, a favourite for hill-walkers and is a renowned location for ice-climbers. The reserve butchers and sells its own venison, and runs a community-based deer stalking group.

Creag Meagaidh Deer

After tea and biscuits, Graeme Taylor, a NatureScot Operations Manager (Land Management), opened the visit with an overview of the reserve. He talked about Wild Deer Best Practice, and said, ‘deer are at the forefront of what we do’. He introduced BDS members to Reserve Manager Rory Richardson, a local lad from Laggan, who engaged the audience with an informative and passionate talk about the reserve’s history and outlined the improvements made under NatureScot’s ownership. Rory highlighted the wider history of the area, the changes he’d seen in his lifetime, and reminded us how estates used to be ‘the bones of local communities’ with employment opportunities, seasonal events, school activities and celebrations.

Managing deer numbers on Creag Meagaidh

In years gone by, Creag Meagaidh was managed for sporting interests, sheep farming and forestry before being declared a NNR in 1986. Deer, the ‘most important species on the reserve’ said Rory, and getting their numbers right, was one of the key success indicators on Creag Meagaidh. Managing deer numbers created a thriving mosaic of habitats and it is one of the richest in the Scottish highlands. The deer also benefit, the increased cover, and wider range of natural food greatly reduced winter mortality and boosted the growth of bigger, stronger deer.

Community based deer stalking

The NNR relies on volunteers and community involvement, and their help is woven through the countless activities all year round. Their local community-based deer stalking contributes to the annual deer cull and plays a vital part in protecting and restoring the reserve’s habitat. Community based deer stalking is open to everyone, with or without qualifications or experience.

Thriving flora and fauna

The diversity and abundance is reflected in the Reserve’s flora and fauna, their native woodlands of alder, birch, oak, rowan and willow have regrown and are flourishing. It is an important breeding ground for countless species of birds and animals – dotterel, ptarmigan, mountain hares, golden eagles, red and black grouse, woodcock, peregrine falcons, and many more.

Raffle raising funds

Late morning, members were given a tour around the facilities: micro hydro with electric vehicle recharging points, incineration room and deer larder before heading back indoors for hot pies and drinks. A BDS raffle, organised by BDS Highlands Chair Stewart Blair, raised £117. Afterwards Rory led the walk out on the Allt Dubh trail. We stopped at the viewing point. It was right in the beating heart of the reserve, and with fantastic vistas across the mountains and Loch Laggan.

More details on the Creagh Meagaidh National Nature Reserve can be found on their website.  If you would like to purchase a copy of For the Love of Country Sports you can do so here. The book is available worldwide in paperback, hardback and ebook formats.