Swiss conservation organisation Pro Natura has chosen the red deer stag as its animal of the year. In choosing a creature that covers huge distances every day, it wanted to draw attention to the state of wildlife corridors.
The divided nature of the Swiss countryside is a growing problem for red deer, according to the organisation.
While stags are known for their antlers and mating call, it is lesser known that stags move over great distances during the day and night and between summer and winter.
“It’s mainly roads, railways and agglomerations that are blocking wild animals in their daily or seasonal movement. We urgently need to create more wildlife corridors in which wild animals can develop freely again,” said Andreas Boldt, a fauna specialist at Pro Natura.
The organisation has separately launched a campaign for “free movement for wildlife”.
The red deer stag is one of the biggest indigenous mammals. Its antlers can weigh up to 8kg alone. To attract a female mate in autumn, the male can make its distinctive mating call up to 500 times an hour.
Red deer disappeared from Switzerland in the middle of the 19th century and returned around 1870 via Austria. A federal hunting law introduced in 1875 favouring protection of females and limiting the hunting season helped improved the population. Today there are around 35,000 red deer in Switzerland. They are mainly found southwest of the Alps.