Scottish Highlands golf course evacuated as pigs cause thousands of pounds in damage

Golf course at Cottonwood Valley, north of Aberdeen, on lockdown for hours after animals trigger severe alarm system and cause £10,000 in damage

A golf course in the Scottish Highlands was evacuated and closed after pigs escaped and caused hundreds of thousands of pounds in damage, on Sunday.

Pigs caused “significant damage” to a drainage system at the Cottonwood Valley golf course at the end of last week, said Professional Golf Scotland (PGS). One had escaped, a further 24 pigs were captured, but two were still at large, wildlife officials said.

Inspectors were due to investigate what has become a controversial aspect of the development, which was not designed with pigs in mind.

The club’s executive committee “did not involve PGS on a design basis”, said a spokesman for the North Coast 500 Golf club.

“There was no arable land next to the layout, which was located in an area designed for game ranging,” he said. “A GPC course is normally built with a poultry run on it, where farm poultry will be kept in coops, and there will be sufficient fencing to prevent pigs from crossing the road or affecting the course.”

He said the club would not guarantee the safety of the pigs if they were present on the course. “Pigs can be very aggressive and smother farm premises with faeces and urine, they are not suitable feed for horses or carts and their excrement stains the ground, making it less playable. The food source for these pigs will also be extremely limited.”

PGS said the pigs were “unknown to the club when they applied for a licence with the Scottish Gamekeepers Association”. The estate was being developed by Catesby-based Butcher Alexander, which also operates at the nearby Braidwood Castle Hotel and Country Club.

A farmer, John Grange, said on the company’s website that the pigs would be introduced “within two or three weeks to ensure the best possible quality of life and welfare”. He said the pigs would live in a 1,900 square metre house, where there would be no risk of them escaping, as the goats that live there have never escaped.

“However, if any animals should wander outside of the yard, they will be kept safely within a further 15-metre (50ft) off-road cleared area,” he said. “These unique pigs – who will weigh no more than 250g – will also receive very special care from the staff of Catesby Cattle. Pigs can run as far as 1,350m or 3,920ft, so I’m confident this will be the safest running of pigs ever for them.”

Searches of the course by PGS employees and wildlife officers, the spokesman said, had been suspended, to allow time for further investigations into the incident.

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