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Swiss farmers use drones to find sheltering fawns, to save them from equipment harm

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By Denis Balibouse and Cecile Mantovani

FOREL, Switzerland (Reuters) – In the lush fields of the Swiss town of Forel, volunteers use drones before dawn to find fawns, or young deer, nestled beneath tall grasses, preventing farmers from inadvertently harming them with heavy agricultural machinery.

Hundreds of fawns have been killed or mutilated in Swiss agricultural fields, prompting Fondation Sauvetage Faons (the Fawn Rescue Foundation) in the Vaud canton to take action.

Farmer Stephan Kohl, who was devastated when he accidentally killed a fawn in his field, has been using the foundation’s free service to prevent further incidents.

“A little fawn is so small,” he said. “We all have small cats and dogs at home. Fawns are cute, too. They are wild animals, but animals nonetheless.”

Established in 2018, the group alerts farmers to the presence of fawns so they can steer clear of them while reaping or mowing their property.

“When the machinery comes through, the fawn gets hit and is killed,” said Roger Stettler, a former banker who volunteers with the foundation. “Our goal is to find them and make them safe, so they don’t get crushed.”

Does tend to leave fawns in fields while they forage for food, returning later for their offspring.

The fawns remain completely still while awaiting their mothers’ return, making them vulnerable to harm by farm machinery, unlike deer, does and foxes that are scared off by noise.

At the request of farmers, volunteers fly drones high above their fields, using thermal imaging to detect the presence of fawns.

The volunteers conduct their search early, before the sun heats up the grass, so they can identify the fawns which appear as red blotches on the drone camera.

The young animal is then carefully covered with a wooden crate with a flag on top, allowing farmers to easily avoid fawns on their property.

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SWI swissinfo.ch - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR