Quite an amusing read this week on how the Angling Trust is calling for the beavers on the river Otter in East Devon to be shot. As some of you may already know, a single beaver was seen on the river last summer and now there is a family. DEFRA however are wanting to evict the beavers. Their main argument being that the beavers carry a parasitic tape worm Echinococcus Multilocularis (EM) which could spread to other wildlife, even humans. But this tapeworm is already carried by a wide range of other wildlife and is widespread across the Northern Hemisphere. Beavers that have been introduced by formal programmes on the River Tay have been screened for it and it can prove difficult to find. Experts believe it is highly unlikely that the animals introduced in Devon would be carriers.
You would think that the Anglers would relish the return of the beaver after 500 years for the beaver does not eat fish as he is a vegetarian. The otter on the other hand, a creature steadily returning in some parts of the country is an exorbitant fish eater so one asks, will the otter be the next bright light of wild life chosen to be banished from our rivers?
A Gamekeeper friend a few years ago approached me in an almighty rage. “A fox is killing my pheasant poults”.
“How can you be so sure it is a fox?” I asked.
“There is about fifteen all with their heads chewed off”, was his taut reply. “But I’ll have him tonight, your fox or not Allan.”
The fox that he was referring to was Dini. Once Teddy had simmered down I asked him how many pheasant poults were in the pen which was located down in the woods. “Five hundred or so”, was his reply.
“Then it wasn’t a fox was it?” I retorted.
“What are you talking about? Always trying to protect that blasted fox. Why wasn’t it?”
“If a fox had got in there you would have lost fifty or a hundred poults because those who understand and have studied foxes know just how they have got such a bad reputation. A chicken coop for instance, a fox by nature is a very highly strung, nervous animal in an attack situation. He is a specialist in stealth and surprise. Quietness and stillness are the two ingredients in which he lays out his store, so once inside and his chosen chicken has been grabbed, the other birds inside the coop start to flap about wildly and uncontrollably. The situation the fox finds himself in now is intolerable, noise coming from all quarters, noises that must be extinguished and dealt with as efficiently as possible. The Coup de Grace to the birds making the noise is death defyingly quick. Always the same grab and bite to the neck on which he’ll hang onto until the noise stops and the fox will carry on until every chicken is dead and not a sound can be heard. Then he will leave with his one chosen chicken and that is the trademark of destruction that has followed the fox down through the centuries. If the rest of the chickens were to stay still and quiet they would remain unharmed for it is noise and commotion that the fox finds himself just unable to tolerate or come to terms with.
Teddy the Gamekeeper didn’t buy this of course but he finally agreed to let me go with him that night up to the pheasant pen as long as I promised that if it was a fox he was going to shoot it with no interference from me.
The day soon came round to night and it was now 11pm and there we were led down 40 metres from the pheasant pen waiting on a beautifully still middle August evening.
The owls were in full song. One Tawny owl in particular was in quite breath taking form, his twit twoo was ringing out, reverberating right across the woodland but as the twit twoo got louder due to the owl getting nearer I sensed an unease within the pheasant poult pen. Soon the noise was right over our heads, I nudged Teddy in the side. We laid dead still. With one last twit twoo the owl glided down from the Beech tree onto the top of the pheasant pen. The Tawny owl sat on the pheasant pen, he was looking for his route in, the one that he had taken before and within seconds our feathery assassin was inside and the mayhem commenced. Teddy sprang up onto his knees, gun in hand. I grabbed the barrel of the gun and pushed it downwards towards the ground. “The bet has been lost old friend, if you had wired over the top of the pen properly in the first place the owl would have been unable to have gained passage into the pheasant pen thus saving the fifteen poults last night and whatever has been killed tonight. An easy ready meal.”
We were soon up at the pheasant pen pulling the wire from the top making it that much easier for the owl to make his escape and I must say the speed he swooped out of that pheasant pen, the phrase, “Bat out of hell” sprang to mind.
Ignorance and inaccuracy can blight our countryside and rob us of such creatures that words are just unable to describe or quantify.
Please watch my short film of a badger taking time out from his frolicking family on a warm summer night.
One of my Badgers relaxing with not a care in the world.