Well, what a week of mixed emotions that was!

The sun came out intermittently and with the help of heavy bursts of rain most of the accumulated snowfall was dispersed, leaving the League’s wildlife sanctuaries very soggy and looking more like January than March. Spring had to start over again, but already the buds on the primroses and daffodils are starting to open and the birds are singing joyfully.

Whilst checking around one of the League’s sanctuaries and replacing the SD cards on the covert cameras that are permanently set up there, I became aware that I was being watched. I turned around to see a herd of Red Deer watching me intently. Around 50 pairs of eyes bore down on me accusingly, clearly astonished at my temerity for intruding into their domain. When they saw me returning their gaze they decided that discretion was their best option and they moved away over horizon to a safer distance.

My eyes were then drawn to a grey lump in the field ahead of me. The lump was moving, and I soon realised that the lump was in fact an adult badger. I knew that badgers were present on the sanctuary, but I had never seen one out in daylight before and I was concerned that it might be injured. The badger was working its way systematically across the field, with its nose pressed to the ground, probing every tussock of grass and then pawing away with its powerful front claws to reveal whatever choice morsel was below. I sat down on the wet grass for 20 minutes watching the badger as it walked back and forth, led by its nose, before finally it had had its fill and trotted off to the safety of its underground sett. Happily, there was nothing amiss and it was probably just a bit peckish after the big freeze. For me, it was an absolute privilege to spend time with such an enigmatic creature.

 An adult badger in Baronsdown wildlife sanctuary

Unfortunately, to balance out the good in life there always has to be some bad. That bad came in the form of the Devon & Somerset Staghounds, who descended en masse at the League’s Baronsdown sanctuary. I was in my garden fixing a fence that had been blown down in the wind, when I heard the sickening sound of hounds in cry very close by. I grabbed my camera and got to the edge of Barlynch Wood just in time to see a desperate stag run by, its eyes bulging in terror and bleeding from an injury to the mouth. Fleeing for its life, the young hunted stag had made its way through Exe Cleeve and across the River Exe. The stag had managed to avoid the totally reckless efforts of the hunt’s gunman to shoot it from the road as it ran by and escaped onto Baronsdown, but hunt supporters on the road made a commotion and scared the stag back the way it had come. Somehow the hunt managed to force the stag out of the League sanctuary and moments later it was dead. I will spare you the distressing details, but the stag’s torturers evidently took great pleasure in cutting trophies from the lifeless form of this once noble beast.

The following video shows the stag being carved up. Please be aware of its graphic content.

Our precious wildlife deserves the right to live without the fear of being hunted. Please donate today to support our 'Keep Out the Hunters' Appeal.


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