My fury as dogs chase baby deer

Rochdale Observer - - WILDLIFE -

I AM in de­spair. The other day I watched as two yap­ping lurchers chased a young roe deer through our lo­cal woods.

Only min­utes be­fore, a re­spon­si­ble dog walker had warned me that two baby deer were un­der a bridge ahead. We walked past the bridge to see if we could see the fawns but they were not in sight.

Then we heard the ex­cited bark­ing and watched one of th­ese beau­ti­ful an­i­mals run­ning in panic and full pelt to avoid the dogs snap­ping at its an­kles. The deer leapt a small fence fol­lowed by one of the dogs but then es­caped as the pant­ing pet came wan­der­ing back look­ing for its owner.

For­tu­nately, I did not see the owner as, at this stage, I was in­can­des­cent with rage. I hon­estly don’t think th­ese were hunt­ing dogs, but they were off the lead and the owner ob­vi­ously had no con­trol over them what­so­ever.

Af­ter I made a few in­quiries, I found out the owner was fe­male and, maybe, she was ab­so­lutely dev­as­tated that her dogs had chased the deer and pos­si­bly done some dam­age as they snapped at it.

It was a heart-stop­ping and heart­break­ing mo­ment for every­one who wit­nessed it. Over the past few weeks we have been treated in the wood­land near my home to close-up views of a buck and two does and their young.

Only last week, I was walk­ing with my well­trained ter­rier, and I stopped to watch for some min­utes as the deer spot­ted me and then car­ried on eat­ing. Their red coats stood out from the green back­ground and the male was proudly guard­ing his fam­ily.

I’m pretty sure that sights like this won’t be hap­pen­ing over the com­ing months as that fam­ily will now be ner­vous of hu­man­ity and their out-of-con­trol pets. I was back there last night and there was no sign of the deer rest­ing peace­fully in the meadow, which is a real shame.

Roe deer grow to about 1.3 me­tres long and 75cm tall. Their long legs make them ag­ile and able to run quickly and leap over quite large fences. They can ac­tu­ally leap from a stand­ing po­si­tion, I have of­ten wan­dered along paths and seen deer ahead, only to be amazed by the size of the fence they have cleared.

They will be­come more ob­vi­ous to coun­try walk­ers in the com­ing months as they stick to­gether in fam­ily groups.

And the woods have less fo­liage so they are eas­ier to spot, although their red sum­mer coat will turn darker grey in the win­ter. Roe deer live in ar­eas of mixed coun­try­side that in­cludes wood­land, farm­land, grass­land and heath­land. They eat buds and leaves from trees and shrubs, as well as ferns, grasses and heathers.

Mat­ing oc­curs around the end of Au­gust, so the young are born in May and June. This makes our lo­cal fawns a few months old, too young to be deal­ing with badly­be­haved dogs. in Lan­cashire, seven bor­oughs of Greater Manch­ester and four of Mersey­side, all ly­ing north of the River Mersey. It man­ages around 40 na­ture re­serves and 20 Lo­cal Na­ture Re­serves cov­er­ing acres of wood­land, wet­land, up­land and meadow. The Trust has 29,000 mem­bers, and over 1,200 vol­un­teers. To be­come a mem­ber of the Trust go to the web­site at www.lanc­swt.org.uk or call 01772 324129. For more in­for­ma­tion about Cheshire Wildlife Trust call 01948 820728 or go to cheshirewil­dlifetrust. org.uk.

Peter Hunter

●●Roe deer buck and doe

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