Island hopping on Loch Lomond

Loch Lomond NNR


The theme of counting stuff continued this week with the Loch Lomond islands deer count. These islands hold some of the best and most beautiful woodland in Scotland but too many deer can harm these woods. Deer are large herbivores and can do a lot of nibbling. This nibbling is targeted on the lush young growth that is low down so this means that regeneration, seedlings, undergrowth, understory and wildflowers can all be cleaned out so reducing the amount of biodiversity the woods can hold. There are 2 ways to find out if you have too many deer. You can count the impact they have on the vegetation. This is useful but not totally accurate. Or you can count the deer themselves. And this is not easy and requires a huge aount of time and effort. Here on the Loch Lomond islands the deer are counted only every 5-6 years while the vegetation is assessed more regularly. This then provides information to help set population levels of deer and if those populations need to be lower.

So Tuesday morning found me watching a group of camouflaged personnel get aboard some boats and head out to Inchcailloch, the first island to count. In fact the group was a mix of SNH staff, volunteers and deer stalkers all drafted in the do a sweep of each island and count all deer seen.  It is a tough task as you have to keep in a straight line despite what obstacles you might find in front of you. Wading through shoulder high brambles gets a bit tiring after a while so Finn, the bog dog quickly had enough of the all of the thorns, decided that he wasn’t a spaniel and just bypassed the lot to meet me on the other side. It was alright for some.

Once at the end of the island all deer seen were tallied and we piled into boats to go to the next island. It has to be said that the last time I saw that much camouflage kit in boats was when watching Saving Private Ryan.


In this way all of the NNR islands were counted with a total for these islands of less than 10, including 4 swimming from Inchcailloch to Torrinch. But a lot more were seen on neighboring Inchfad.

The islands woodlands are just stunning, even in winter. Huge oaks, ancient coppice stools, with everything coated in mosses and lichens. It was a really privilege getting to spend the day in them despite the brambles.

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2 Responses to Island hopping on Loch Lomond

  1. Privar says:

    And what happens if in your view they “need to be lower’


    • Hi, SNH’s policy is that deer management principles apply, and if the population is too high and causing environmental damage then the population is lower by culling.
      Our responsibilities are as below:
      Scottish Natural Heritage has a statutory responsibility to further the conservation, control and sustainable management of all wild deer species in Scotland. We also collect and maintain national data on deer management, and support the development of Wild Deer Best Practice guidance.

      Scotland’s Wild Deer: A National Approach is Scotland’s vision for wild deer, which land managers and public bodies deliver. A 2014 review of the original 2008 policy document has set new priorities and challenges for 2015–2020. This directs our whole approach to managing deer.
      For more information:

      Hope this answers your question
      many thanks
      David Pickett


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