Locals have been warned to stop hand-feeding deer amid fears over ‘high rates’ of Lyme disease in a Highlands village.
There are fears the animals may be contributing to Lyme disease – a serious illness caused by ticks – in Kinlochleven.
A herd of red deer is said to have set up home in the village and images of stags congregating in a children’s playpark were being shared on social media.
Similar problems have been seen at Kingshouse Hotel in nearby Glencoe, where pictures of stags being fed by visitors have been shared on social media.
Hundreds of people signed a petition calling for action and Kinlochleven Community Trust said it is working with the police, landowners and residents to find a solution.
A local, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said: “We’ve had a deer population in and around the village for a long time – we have an estate that has deer management.
“But there has been a rise in hand-feeding by some residents, which has meant we have a population who have set up home in the village and have become really domesticated.
“There are some residents who don’t think it’s a problem.
“Everyone is worried that someone is going to get hurt.
“Deer carry ticks and we’ve got a lot of Lyme disease in the village.
“I think it comes down to that simple pleasure of being close to beautiful animals and maybe people forget that they can be wild and dangerous.”
Lyme disease occurs through tick bites if the Borrelia bacteria is present.
Early treatment with antibiotics is vital to lessen the risk of long-term complications.
The Scottish variant is said to cause neurological problems including stiff neck, severe headache, meningitis, temporary paralysis of the facial muscles, numbness and poor motor coordination.
A spokeswoman for NatureScot said: “We’re particularly concerned by evidence of local people feeding the deer, which causes them to lose their natural fear of humans.
“This can result in greater risk of deer and vehicle collisions, deer approaching people expecting food, and stags becoming more aggressive, especially around the rut.
“To reduce these risks we are urging people to leave the deer alone, and let them forage naturally.”
A spokesperson for the Kinlochleven Community Trust board added: “It is becoming increasingly apparent that the current position will not be improved until the residents that are feeding deer stop this behaviour.
“They are wild animals and should be treated accordingly.”
The British Deer Society warns on their website: “The BDS recommends that all deer, no matter how tame they may appear, should not be approached closely, nor should they be fed by hand or encouraged to eat any material that is not part of their natural diet.”