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Bern deer study ended after 22 fawns killed

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Bern deer study ended after 22 fawns killed
Photo: Jan Bo Christensen
10:07 CEST+02:00
Following a public outcry, the canton of Bern has axed a deer study that led to to the killing of 22 fawns because of defective tracking collars that would have strangled them.

The University of Zurich recently hired professional gamekeepers to shoot the young roe deer after the defect was noticed in mid-August.

The study aimed to examine the impact of reintroduced lynx on the deer population in the Simmen and Kander valleys.

Bern informed the university and the federal government, which helped finance the study, that it would be immediately suspended, Urs Zaugg, from the canton’s agriculture and nature office, told SRF radio on Thursday.

The faulty collars, which failed to expand around the neck as required when the animals grew, were attached to 24 fawns.

Another six of the same batch expanded as they were designed to do.

Two of the fawns with the defective collars died for unknown reasons, while the rest were destroyed by hunters.

The university stressed that the roe deer population in the Simmen and Kander valleys was sufficiently robust to withstand the loss of the fawns.

But the cull was greeted with outrage and consternation on Swiss social media by members of the public who wanted to know why the collars could not have been changed without killing the animals, the ATS news agency reported.

University researchers maintained it was not possible to tranquillize the fawns to change the tracking devices.

The research, funded by the federal environment office to the tune of several hundred thousand francs, was designed to develop a sustainable strategy to allow deer and lynx to coexist.

Since 2011, a total of 145 roe deer were fitted with tracking collars and no problems were previously noticed.

Lukas Keller, the scientist responsible for the deer study, described the cantonal decision as “tough blow”.

The malfunction of the tracking collars is certainly a nightmare but only such studies can provide the scientifically backed information needed to manage the lynx, he told SRF radio.

A federal laboratory is continuing to analyze the problem with the collars, ATS said.  

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