How to help Ru­dolph this Christ­mas...

Rossendale Free Press - - Wildlife -

HERE’S a sad Christ­mas story – the num­ber of rein­deer in the world has halved over the past cou­ple of decades, from more than four mil­lion to just over two mil­lion.

The iconic leader of Santa’s sleigh is suf­fer­ing from the ef­fects of over-hunt­ing and cli­mate change.

In lands around the Arc­tic Cir­cle changes in tem­per­a­ture have meant less snow and more ice, which stops rein­deer – or cari­bou – reach­ing its veg­gie diet. It means these beau­ti­ful beasts must travel miles and miles to eat.

One in­ter­est­ing fact I read in an ar­ti­cle by Si­mon Barnes in a na­tional news­pa­per, is that the rein­deer’s nose is spe­cially adapted so it can take in freez­ing air and make it warm. It means that most rein­deer have red noses.

While I was wor­ry­ing about num­bers of rein­deer and how to find Ru­dolph if they all have red noses, I thought back to a wor­ry­ing tale I told you about a cou­ple of months ago.

While out walk­ing I had seen a cou­ple of lurchers chas­ing a lo­cal roe deer fam­ily through the woods. It was a hor­ri­ble ex­pe­ri­ence for the deer and it wasn’t nice to wit­ness. The deer es­caped be­cause those bad­ly­trained dogs came pant­ing back min­utes later, but it should not have hap­pened.

Any­way, for weeks and weeks there was no sign of the deer fam­ily - buck, doe and two fawns - which upset and an­noyed a lot of lo­cal na­ture lovers.

Then, last week, I was walk­ing my well-be­haved dog along a farm track and there in front of me was mum and a cou­ple of, now older, off­spring. They looked back at me and then slowly walked into the woods.

I got a good view of the fam­ily and then just saw their white rumps wag­gling off into the dark wood.

It’s amaz­ing to think that this could have been the same fam­ily that de­lighted us all in sum­mer, now back to their old feed­ing ground de­spite their bad ex­pe­ri­ence. Or maybe the big­ger youth­ful deer was now keen to show any dogs that it could show them a clean pair of heels.

They cer­tainly weren’t fazed by me and Al­fie wan­der­ing slowly past, just en­joy­ing the fact that beau­ti­ful crea­tures share the coun­try­side with us.

Bri­tain is not short of roe deer and our vil­lage has cer­tainly wel­comed many fawns in the past decade. A lack of preda­tors is help­ing to lift num­bers and there are some culls in other parts of the coun­try.

Ob­vi­ously prob­lems need to be solved when deer be­come a pest but I gen­uinely be­lieve that many peo­ple do get a real thrill at see­ing these beau­ti­ful an­i­mals in the wild.

So, there are two things to think of this Christ­mas. Let’s all work towards mak­ing the world a bet­ter place for our wild an­i­mals and de­mand more pro­tec­tion and stronger laws on pol­lu­tion in a strong En­vi­ron­ment Act. Get in touch with your MP and de­mand that the UK leads the way to re­v­erse cli­mate change.

And se­condly get out­side this Christ­mas and meet some of your own lo­cal wildlife. You never know, you may spot a deer or two.

To be­come a mem­ber of the Wildlife Trust for Lan­cashire, Manch­ester and North Mersey­side go to www.lanc­swt.org. uk or call 01772 324129. For Cheshire Wildlife Trust, call 01948 820728 or go to cheshirewil­dlifetrust.org.uk.

Peter Hunter

●● Roe deer in win­ter

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