Treasuring Bambi

Today Richard is Guest Blogger on the Wiggly Blog



As I stared through my kitchen window this morning, mug of tea in hand, gusts of wind forced ‘flocks’ of leaves to hurtles past, accompanied by the odd heavy rain drop ‘dinking’ on the glass. In the paddock below I could just make out the silhouettes of seven fallow deer. Wind, I find, often makes animals excitable including humans. As I focussed in I marvelled at how the herd of does interacted and played with one another in the stiff breeze. One would charge forward and throw its self into a 90 degree loop bucking head down as if to challenge one of its companions, but being apparently ignored. Occasionally the group would bolt across the pasture, stop, look, listen, consider all around them and begin to graze.

We are very lucky in many respects to have such large mammals surviving to such a healthy extent despite human activity. There does seem to be a consensus amongst land managers (not all!) that deer are simply tools of destruction and should be treated with nothing other than contempt. Whilst it’s true that deer nibble at under storey growth and reduce the regeneration of unprotected coppice, it’s also true that patches of rare grasses and flowers proliferate in woodland glades where deer graze. Its also true that unprotected gardens may suffer the ravages of deer predation, however imagine being in the privileged situation of being able to observe such a gentle, discerning and unassuming creature at close quarters. Deer in gardens are not is a problem if those fortunate enough to live in a setting where deer can be found, are considerate enough to afford there patch a little extra protection.

We have a situation in Herefordshire which may well be mirrored in other counties, in that even land management co-ordinators affiliated with Natural England and the Wildlife Trusts have an ingrained instinct to dwell on the perceived difficulties of healthy dear populations rather than revel in their inherent beauty.

Some of the best techniques to preserve diverse flora and fauna that exists in long established meadows are to use stock to graze. This often requires that land parcels should be fenced in. In many places such as North America, where populations of white tailed deer for example are numerous, their presence is taken into consideration. Normal stock proof fencing is done in a manner that allows fawns to get out and larger animals to get over. Established deer routes are cut off, but fencing in these spots accommodates the passage of the native life. This uncomplicated bit of extra thought is something rarely adopted in ‘our neck of the woods’. Far to infrequently I have witnessed deer hanging by one of their back legs from a hideous strand of barbed wire, injured deer (many die), lucky enough to have survived by pulling out of their ill conceived snare can occasionally be seen limping across the countryside. The irony here is often that these animals despite their tenacity and amazing ability to live through this torment are often targeted by stalkers in an effort to remove the weak or the sickly. This of course is a sound animal management strategy in some respects, but imagine having lived through pulling your leg off, only to be shot 6 months later!

I have seen fallows at close quarters many times. I have heard them communicate with each other through quiet whistles and mews. I have seen a mother stand over the twisted corps of her infant, killed by a speeding motorist, deeply stressed by the loss of the life that she has carried for several months, to the hands of an individual that would complain about the dent in the bonnet of something that is comparatively meaningless and that the compulsory insurance will invariably remunerate him for.

I do think a balance is essential. Given humans have long since seen to extermination of any natural predators in the UK, it is our responsibility to maintain deer numbers. To create a market place for venison is shrewd, to maintain a balance between mature bucks and does is canny, but to dismiss such a fabulous beast because it’s ‘inconvenient’ is crass to say the least. A little more thought and attention to detail is all it takes to make the most of a species which continues to be successful despite human activity, in contrast to many other species.


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