Wednesday, 30 March 2011

We're going on a deer hunt

I was given the chance very recently to go and help some ecologists from the Univeristy of Zürich catch roe deer. One of the PhD student there is starting a study looking at the habitat use of roe deer in the presence and absence of their main predator, the lynx, as well as looking at the effect of hunting on the roe deer population demography in Western Switzerland. Alf and I went to spend a few days in the forest of Le Gibloux, near the Lac de la Gruyère. To my utter disappointment, the lake wasn't actually made of cheese, so there was no fondue to be had...However, we had lots of fun, especially Alf who looooooves snow (rolling in it and eating it!)

We were a team of about 30 people, half of which tended the nets that had been deployed around a 1km square area while the other half walked towards the nets, making as much noise as possible to scare the roe deer into the nets. 

Once disantangled from the nets, the roe deer were put in a box and carried to the nearest clearing where they were measured, weighed, tagged and, most importantly, where they were given a GPS collar that will record their GPS locations every few minutes so that scientists can follow their movements and their use of the habitat over the next few months.

We caught 6 female roe deer in total which wasn't bad considering none of us had any previous experience of this type of field work. We have no idea where the male roe deer were hiding! The "girls" did not seem to be too traumatised by the whole experience although they did not hang around for too long once they had been set free.

I had a really nice time despite my many falls in the thorny bushes trying to keep up with Alf running down some steep slopes. I'm sure he is still chasing them in his dreams...

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