You all know that I love local wildlife – and that I’m particularly fond of the local deer population, who have sadly been involved in many accidents with vehicles in recent years on roads around our commons, countryside and open spaces.
In order to try and prevent further accidents, Walsall and Staffordshire Councils have teamed up with experts in behavioural analysis from the University of Wolverhampton to form the Deer Safety Partnership, a new road safety initiative.
The Partnership yesterday issued the following press release, which I feel is well worth drawing to the attention of readers.
The Deer Safety Partership said:
The Deer Safety Partnership is a working group tasked with reducing the large number of road accidents involving the local deer population, who in recent years have been increasing in number within the green spaces of South Staffordshire and North Walsall Borough.
For some time now, efforts have been undertaken to educate local road users on the hazard presented by deer and other animals who wander freely in search of fresh grazing and shelter. Sadly, all efforts have come to little, and the partnership feels this is now the time to take an alternative approach.
After years of working with both motorists and deer, road safety and wildlife experts now realise that the problem that has to be addressed is better approached from the point of view of the herds, and to that end, experimental trials have been conducted with tightly controlled groups of deer.
It has been found that training the adult animals in safe road crossing procedures has reduced incidents in the target area by a startling 68%, a figure it is agreed can be further improved by fitting animals with high-visibility coats, similar to those used on police horses.
Dr. Mervyn Smith of the University of Wolverhampton, who has been working on this innovative project, explained ‘For years we tried increased and better signage, speed reduction measures and driver education techniques, to little or no effect.
‘It was while tracking some deer on Chasewater North Heath a few months ago that I realised our approach was totally wrong – we were trying to educate the less intelligent half of the road using community. No wonder we were failing.’
Dr. Smith continued ‘Our team has established that by working intensively with small groups of deer that they can be trained to cross roads in appropriate places, look both ways and be very wary of any driver apparently on a mobile phone. By combining this approach with permanent fitting of high-visibility coats, we should see a permanent reduction in cervine fatality.
Brian Stringer, of the Brownhills Local Committee, welcomesd this pro-active action, ‘The high-visibility aspect of the project will be quite a boon for local amateur photographers, as it will make the roving animals easier to locate on dull days – but some of the Committee members are concerned that it may make gangs of Council lumberjacks harder to spot.’
It is hoped that in the longer term, deer-operated crossings can be installed at critical points on The Parade, Chester Road and Watling Street, and the larger males could have speed warnings stencilled onto their rumps.
The pilot project commences with immediate effect, and if successful, will be expanded to include foxes, badgers and local children.
I for one, welcome this brilliant initiative. Anything that saves the lives of these majestic beasts has to be a move in the right direction.
Comment here, or mail me: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Cheers, deers.