These heartbreaking pictures of a proud stag with its antlers wrapped in a discarded fishing net have revealed the tragic impact of marine litter in Scotland.
In newly released pictures, a stag on the Isle of Rum is seen with a distressing crown of rubbish on its head.
Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), who manage the Rum National Nature Reserve, published the photographs to highlight the effect marine waste is having on nature.
Writers of SNH’s Nature Scotland blog felt compelled to post the images, which were taken last year, for the first time to highlight the problem of marine litter.
The blog read: “Most of us have seen upsetting images of turtles, whales, dolphins or seabirds entangled with plastics or discarded fishing gear.
“Perhaps less well known is the tragic effect that marine litter can have on land mammals when it washes up on our beaches.
“Red deer stags with rope and netting caught on their antlers is an all too familiar occurrence, particularly around Scotland’s West Coast.
“Thankfully it doesn’t always end so tragically, as stags naturally cast their antlers in the spring.
“It’s not unusual to come across shed antlers entwined with old rope.
“But the worst cases do end badly.
“Often the rope starts around the antlers but as the deer struggles to free itself, the rope catches its legs too.
“Rope can be surprisingly heavy and a sapping burden for a deer to carry around on its head.
“It can restrict movement, preventing the stag from feeding properly and leading to starvation.
“Sometimes the rope will rub, causing an open wound, and the afflicted animal will die from an infection.”
SNH’s Rum reserve manager Lesley Watt described marine litter as a “huge international problem.”
She said: “Small actions can make a big difference, and everyone has a part to play.”
Marine litter can hang around shores for a long time, usually until it is removed by hand.
And SNH said: “A single piece of rubbish thoughtlessly chucked overboard can claim more than one victim.
“On Rum staff once discovered a dead deer caught up in a piece of fishing rope which already had an old deer skull attached.
“Who knows, had we not removed it, the rope may have one day claimed a third victim.
“This is not an issue unique to Rum, or deer: marine litter can be a problem for animals all around Scotland’s 10,000 miles of coastline.”
Kate Forbes MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch said it would take years to rid our coastline of the dropped litter.
She said: “I’ve seen plenty of images of seabirds and sea creatures, but the deer on Rum show that land animals are also badly affected.
“There is more awareness than ever before about the impact of litter, particularly plastic litter, on our seas.”
“Clearly, the problem is so widespread that it will take years to rid our coastline of plastic debris.”
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