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My dad's good deed that didn't end well


Normally I go on one walk a week, but because I have a broken leg at the moment, Dad has been going on walks by himself. Yesterday while I was at school dad took the day off work and planned a big walk to explore a new wood. The walk was to go up in the snowy hills on a moor near my house, and go up the side of a steep valley. The wood was on the side of the valley on a very steep slope with a river at the bottom. After exploring the wood he would find a way to cross the river and head up on the other side to a deserted farmhouse and make his way back.

He parked his car then walked up and took the main route up the hills up past the snow line. There where lots of deer out because the snow was covering up their food and they needed to spend a lot more time finding and eating food in the snowy weather. He says he saw about 50 in total. The way where he wanted to go was too dangerous because of snowdrifts, so he came down to the bottom edge of the wood and that is where the story really begins.

This is the view at the bottom of the woods. The river is at the bottom of the hills, the wood is on the left, and the deserted farmhouse is at the top right. The snow wasn't that deep at this point, maybe just a foot or so, but it was slippy and dangerous on the slopes.

He spotted a roe buck that was lying dead near the river and slid down to see it. It had been dead a few days and foxes had already eaten the stomach area. Then he looked back up the hill to the fence he had just crossed and saw another roe trapped in a fence.

Lots of deer get caught in low fences like this.They try to jump, a back foot gets caught in the gap betlow the top wire,  and when they land on the other side it has twisted round and it is impossible for them to get free, like this red deer I found (sixth picture down). As dad walked back up the slope he saw it was still moving slightly which he was amazed at. It was still alive !

There was blood on the snow but it all came from the antlers. Antlers are a special kind of bone but at this time of year they are still growing and are covered by velvet, which is a furry skin which carries blood to the antlers to help them grow. I wrote more about how roe deer antlers grow here. Here is the back of the antler where it had been rubbed raw by the deer struggling.

Dad checked the deer and apart from trapped leg there were no other signs of injury but the deer wasn't struggling and seemed sleepy. From the poo around the body, he thought it had maybe been trapped for a day. He knew he was going to free it, but wasn't sure if it was best to let it run off it had other injuries so he phoned the SSPCA and they said just to free it. It was a tricky thing to plan because deer are like rabbit in that they can die of fright and stress, so he knew he had to move as fast as possible.

Freeing it was difficult. First he got a strong stick and tried to untwist the wire but it wasn't strong enough. Then he tried to loosen the wire at the fenceposts using his Swiss Army Knife but that wasn't strong enough either. Finally he had an idea. We both carry climbing ropes with a carabiner (round metal clip) and so he pushed his carabiner between the wires and turned it round. The deer's foot came out !

After he freed the leg, the deer still didn't move. It was lying at the bottom of a very steep slope against the fence with its legs trapped under it, so dad tried to move it.

He couldn't move it by hand, so he put his rope around its chest, fixed one end to a tree and pulled the other end to roll it over.

Even then it didn't want to move or make any sound. The caught leg was still out straight, and felt as if it was dislocated (when the thigh bone comes out of the hip socket). He went down to the stream to get some water to put on its lips but that didn't help.

Dad knew that wild roe deer get very stressed by human contact, so he packed up his rucksack and moved away hoping it would move. He watched it through binoculars and had his sandwiches. Then before he headed back he went back to check on it. It hasn't moved but it had stopped breathing. The poor deer had died.

This is a sad story for Easter. I have seen lots and lots of dead deer, but it is sad when one dies in front of you. I don't know if the skeleton will all be there in a few months because the wood has a family of foxes who will rip it apart to feed their cubs, but hopefully then I can have a look at the bones and see if any of the legs were broken.

I'll write a happier post on Monday about a new skull I have !

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Robin Roe said...

It is always a good deed to help an injured animal. Depending on how skilled and how distant your local wildlife rehabilitation group is, the deer still may not have survived if your dad had been able to transport. Good on him for freeing the deer and giving it a more comfortable passing. And if the deer's death means life and survival for the fox family, then the story has a good ending. Glad to know there are people like your dad who are willing to risk their own safety a bit to care for another life, even if "only" a deer.

Jake said...

He tried to do what was best for it.

Blair Malcolm said...

Poor little guy. It was good of your Dad to try. I found a rabbit in a snare before caught just around his stomach on the land behind my house where no hunting is allowed. I cut him free and he ran off like a bullet. I felt pretty good about myself.

nina said...

poor little thing, it never had a chance but your dad tried his best...also I need some advise I have never really done bone collecting before but ive found a fresh body of a water shrew but I don't know how to make the little guy into bones,i only found yesterday, and I have checked what they are and they have poisonous saliva so now im a bit nervous, please could you help me and tell me if I should take it or not since their poisonous and how to make him into bones
please reply.

Jake said...

I would wear rubber gloves, and keep away from the shrews mouth, then wrap in tights with a few small holes for flies to get in, leave in the open for a few days (so flies can lay eggs which turn into maggots), then cover with a plant pot to keep rain off (but leave a gap for flies to get in). Once the animal is rotted down ( six weeks, or a few months, depends how warm it is) the poison should have gone, but put in peroxide to make sure. This should help: http://www.jakes-bones.com/p/how-to-clean-animal-bones.html PS. This is what *I* would do, but I don't know enough about how powerful the poison is, so do it at your own risk !

nina said...

thx a bunch for this hopefully I can find more and then become a bone collector! :)

nina said...

while it is tights how should I prevent it being eaten from the foxes that live under our shed and is 3 days an appropriate amount of time but also im not too sure why it is a water shrew since there is not a body of water near where I found him, has the little guy wandered off way too far and starved maybe?

nina said...

I meant while its in tights

Jake said...

Put it somewhere the fox can't get it, like under the flowerpot like I suggested, or wrapping in wire mesh like this: http://www.jakes-bones.com/2013/04/a-lucky-week-for-me-but-unlucky-one-for.html If you the time taken to skeletonise, almost nothing will happen in 3 days, which is why I said it will take at least six weeks (depends how hot it is). In Scotland you don't need a licence to have water vole bones (http://www.snh.gov.uk/protecting-scotlands-nature/species-licensing/mammal-licensing/shrew-vole/) but check it's the same where you are.

Nina said...

Thx for this I will change what I have done by hanging the tights up for flies to get I but I found out it already has eggs on so today I'm gonna put it under a flower pot and wait the time. :)

Nina said...

Umm what you said about if you are allowed to have one I'm not sure but I searched it up and it said that they are protected from certain methods of killing does that mean its not ok to have one?

Nina said...

I have found out it is not a water shrew but a common shrew so that explains why it is not near water! :)

Jake said...

Yeah, I've heard that "Jack" is a really nice boy...

Samantha said...

Good on you jack and jacks dad for trying to help him :(

Christine Sutcliffe said...

Awww, poor wee thing. :( Still, at least it was able to die with a bit of dignity after all that stress and good on your dad for trying to save him. :)

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