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Alex Douglas-Kane shares her experiences and understanding of Discover Nature Awareness

Monday, 14 December 2009

The Kingley Vale Stag

This is a story from Cliff Wright a close friend of mine which I thought I would share it with you.

Last Sunday I took an early morning trip to Kingley Vale for a wander around with my friend Cathy. We'd been wandering a few hours, and came upon some deer that ran off, all except one, which was a stag. It was making strange shapes under a tree and we couldn't figure why 'til we thought that it must be caught on something.

Working closer, which terrified it, showed that one antler had what looked like a tree root wound round it which was also wound round a tree. I then saw that it was actually a length of chicken wire several yards long by about a foot or two wide. The wire was fast attached to the ground and a tree and the stag had wound it round and round so much that the bit that held it's antler was no wider than your thumb, made up of twisted metal. It was so firmly attached that the deer was thrashing to escape it but only twisting itself firmer on it. Who knows how long it had been there? By the state of it and the thickness of chewed up mud, you'd think quite a while.

We retreated and thought it over. The cars with phones in were half an hour away, who were we to phone anyway? It would take too long anyway. We had no wire cutters or anything sharp and in any case how are we supposed to get close to a wild and petrified stag? Meantime the animal was doing stupid leaps to try and free itself and crashing horribly in the slimy mud on a steep slope. It was traumatic to watch.

We decided the only thing was to try and get close and make an attempt to free it. I took my waterproof off and edged closer, trying to be calm and talking to the stag. Of course he totally freaked out and violently thrashed 'til I thought he was going to kill himself. As I slowly got closer he leaped and fell badly with the wire running across one back leg, going under his belly and pinning his antler to his back - it looked like he'd broken his neck and I thought what am I doing? But it stopped him moving for a moment so I found myself going right up to him and getting hold of the antler to relieve the pressure on his back. His eyes were nearly out of their sockets with fear.

I laid my hand on him and said some things whereupon he flinched and then settled and then something happened which I can't forget. He surrendered. His eyes went calm and I, with heart pounding, found myself gripping his muddy antler and looking at the mess of twisted wire that held him.

His neck wasn't broken. He had fallen in such a way that force of tension on the wire made it impossible to move anything. One of the points of his antler was digging in his back and even holding that away so it didn't puncture the skin was as much as I could do. The only thing was to try and move him. Fully grown, mud soaked stag, steep sloped mud bath, pouring with rain. Somehow though, he let me do it. I could only move him a few inches but it was just enough to release some of the wire tension and have a good look at it. The wire was round two points of the antler and around the main stem and would not budge a millimetre. It couldn't have been tighter bound if you'd tried and looked an impossible task. I sat there and stroked his neck, thinking can you saw off living antler and is there a saw in my car?

Then somehow I saw the shape of the wire as if in reverse and I knew what to do. With a process of hacking at it with a sharp flint, prizing bits of wire with my car key and yanking it and untwisting it with my hands I got it off I think it took about half an hour but things were going in slow motion.

I moved a few feet away and for the first time thought I might be in danger here if he gets up. He didn't move for what seemed like ages just staring at me. Cathy and I were making encouraging noises and I was thinking maybe he's just given up. Then, quick as a flash, he was up and running away into the forest. I was too close to a tree so missed seeing how he ran but Cathy saw all and thought he looked fine.

A great lesson in surrender...?


1 comment:

Kee said...

Lovely Cliff, well done for following through, sometimes the right course of action can cause terror or pain to the other in the first instance and can make us shy away. A frightened animal gives off so much fear too so good stuff for bringing him to safety. Thanks for posting this Geoff.