Röttgen · Many farmers are now mowing their meadows. They often overlook fawns, and for them this means certain death. The members of the Bonn hunters' association are trying to stop this. They are using technology to do so.
Help from certain death is coming from the air for fawns. With the help of drones, hunters in Bonn can easily find the little ones and bring them to safety. When farmers cut their meadows - as is currently the case - they often overlook the animals in the tall grass, so that these end up in the mower.
Doe mothers, also called does, hides their fawns in the tall grass to protect them from predators like foxes. If farmers neglect to check the meadows before mowing, it becomes a danger for the newborns as they do not yet have escape reflexes. The period between mid-May and the end of June is particularly crucial. After that the fawns are already big enough to escape on their own.
Until then, fawn rescuers are out and about finding the helpless Bambis. A total of 100 volunteers from the Bonn hunting association are involved in the search. The members of the association not only rescue fawns, but also campaign for the public acceptance of hunting, sustainability and nature conservation.
Since the Whitsun weekend, the hunters and other volunteers have already saved the lives of 12 fawns. They are active in Lengsdorf and Röttgen, for instance, as well as in Alfter, Meckenheim and Beuel. The hunters also rely on the help of farmers for their rescue operations. Often farmers approach the hunters to ask for support. "Farmers are even required to commission the fawn search or to look for them themselves," says Thomas Brunner, a member of the Bonn hunters' association. He says there have already been cases in the Eifel where the police have received reports because fawns were killed by a mower.
Rescue comes from the air
When the Bonn hunters' association receives an alert, they send out helpers. So far, these have mainly been on foot and have needed up to an hour to cover a given area. Moreover, in the tall grass it is difficult for them to keep an overview and to spot the fawns. Even dogs can be of little help to the hunters in their search, as the fawns do not give off any scent.
"That's where the drones are a real step forward," says Brunner. Three years ago, the Bonn hunting association bought the first drone with thermal imaging function with the help of a crowdfunding campaign. Meanwhile, two drones are in use, and they make it easier to search for fawns. A drone needs just ten minutes to scan a meadow the size of a football field.
But not every volunteer is allowed to operate one: if you want to fly a drone, you need a licence. A This can be obtained online, and for the smallest drones there is only one questionnaire to answer. So far, there are only six volunteers in the hunters' association who have such a licence. Because the areas they have to cover are often quite large, the volunteers take turns flying. Sometimes they get support from the Alfter volunteer fire brigade with another drone. The firefighters are actually using their device for a pilot project and later want to use it to search buildings from a safe distance during operations.
"The search is much more successful than it was before. It's faster and also more reliable than searching with dogs," Brunner said. With the 12 animals they have been able to save so far, the hunters are only two fawns below the average of the last three years - but there are still a few weeks left until the end of June to save the lives of more animals.
When the thermal imaging camera shows a fawn, the drone hovers over it so the rescuers can find it. When they do so, they carefully transport it to the edge of the forest and place a laundry basket over it. This way the fawn is protected from enemies and the doe is unable to take it back to the tall grass. And as soon as the fawn is safe, the farmer can mow their meadow with a clear conscience.
It is important to handle fawns properly
After the farmer has finished, the helpers release the fawn back into the wild. They remove the laundry hamper and quickly back away. "When the fawn squeals for its mother and vice versa, they find each other immediately," Brunner explains. This takes no more than a few minutes. However, it make take the mother deer until the next day before she has found a new hiding place for her baby.
Brunner has one request for anyone who finds a hamper with fawns under it while out walking: "Don't touch it. That can lead to the doe not finding her kid, because she then only smells the human scent." He also calls on people to keep dogs on a leash and away from fawns. Walkers who find an animal should inform the police or the local hunting leaseholder. Anyone who would like to help with the rescues can contact the Bonn hunting association.
Original text: Lea Henneberg
Translation: Jean Lennox