Deer nationalism and status quo bias

The Iron Curtain fell 25 years ago, but it seems that nobody told the deer.

A new study has found that a quarter of a century on, red deer on the border between the Czech Republic and old West Germany still do not cross the divide.

After tracking 300 deer, researchers said the animals are intent on maintaining the old boundaries.

One of the scientists involved told the BBC the deer are not ideological, “they are just very conservative in their habits.”

During the Cold War, electric fences made the Czech-German boundary impossible to pass.

The story is here, hat tip goes to Yana.


Bot, Czech and German deer are way behind when it comes to international politics. Oh dear ...

It is odd that this applies to deer. Because it does not apply to other animals. The Germans have been complaining about the movement of elk from Poland (or more accurately Polish-occupied Germany). Germans discover them from time to time, late at night, while driving. Which is never a good idea.

Wolves have been moving as well although I am not sure I believe German reports of wolves.

No biologist here, but observe what we've got.

Elk migrate. But deer, kind of not so much. They're here all year, although their habits change.

You can see the tracks of the paths they take over our land, they have a pattern, looks like those goat tracks that turn into human paths and then railroad tracks and then roads over the centuries.

So if there's not a reason to change the path they take all the time, why would they?

If the paths they normally take were disturbed, I'd guess you'd see more possible movement into other areas.

So, conservative -- if it ain't broke.

Seems obvious to me that all red deer should prefer the Czech side, or perhaps they should migrate further and be part of rebuilding of the CCCP.

When I worked in the boonies in Russia (2005-6), I noticed a lack of visible game animals. Discussing this with locals, the possibility was broached of hunting pressure, especially after the fall of the Soviet. Times were poor, food was scarce then. The hunting was most likely done primarily illegally. The impact, where I was, was such that the deer were exceedingly shy. More shy, by far, than deer where I now live, in Massachusetts.

I have to wonder if a subculture of poaching may not also have had an impact on deer habits near the Czech border.

Czech Republic here. During the Cold War, the border zone with Germany was off-limits to civilians, including poachers, and the ban was strictly enforced. Generally, the deer had such a good life in the empty forests that its numbers grew beyond anything sustainable.

What is the proper English term for a resident of the Czech Republic? Czech? Czech Republican? Is Bohemian still acceptable? I imagine Hussite is right out.

The demonym for the Czech Republic is Czech.

I've always wondered about the variation in skittishness of deer. Is it the result of 'memetic' propagation from interactions with threats (like poachers), or is it simply triggered by changes in observed population density?

Well, maybe. By the same deer telemetry team:

Crossing the border? Structure of the red deer (Cervus elaphus) population from the Bavarian–Bohemian forest ecosystem

J. Fickel, O.A. Bubliy, A. Stache, T. Noventa, A. Jirsa, M. Heurich
Mammalian Biology - Zeitschrift fur Saugetierkunde (Impact Factor: 1.25). 01/2011; DOI:10.1016/j.mambio.2011.11.005

ABSTRACT Anthropogenic impact such as overhunting and habitat fragmentation has reduced the total red deer population (Cervus elaphus) across Europe. In Germany remaining subpopulations are even confined to designated areas with limited or no gene flow among them. Red deer populations inhabiting the Bavarian–Bohemian forest ecosystem had been divided by a fortified State border between Germany and former Czechoslovakia. To assess red deer genetic diversity more than two decades after the removal of the fortifications, we analysed a population from the Bavarian Forest National Park, Germany, and one from the National Park Šumava, Czech Republic, using 11 microsatellite loci and a 910 bp long section of the mitochondrial control region (mtDNA). Bayesian analyses of microsatellite allele frequencies favoured the presence of a single population in the Bavarian-Bohemian forest ecosystem over other population genetic structures. This admixture was supported by a lack of population pairwise differentiation between German and Czech red deer microsatellite genotypes in the analysis of molecular variance (AMOVA, FST = 0.009, p = 0.383). Contrastingly, AMOVA revealed a highly significant matrilinear differentiation of mtDNA between the two samples (ΦST = 0.285, p = 0.002), whereby German red deer belonged predominantly to haplogroup A (western Europe) and Czech red deer predominantly to haplogroup C (eastern Europe). In combination, these findings indicated a high degree of philopatry by does and extensive gene flow across the former border mediated by stags. They also identified the Bavarian–Bohemian forest ecosystem as part of a suture zone between western and eastern European red deer matrilines.

Does exhibit hysteresis; the stags go a-wandering to mate and then presumably return.

"Anthropogenic impact such as overhunting and habitat fragmentation has reduced the total red deer population (Cervus elaphus) across Europe". Oh bollocks. When I was a boy you hardly saw the bloody things south of the Highland Line; now the vermin are everywhere in Britain. Even my back garden. They do a lot of damage to woodland as well as vegetable patches. Eat Bambi!

Reintroducing wolves does wonders (I'm serious).

" They do a lot of damage to woodland as well as vegetable patches."

Humans sure have a desire for stasis. While they want greater incomes, bigger houses and nicer cars they want everything else to stay just as it is. The deer population should remain just as it was at some particular point in history and then never vary, for each fawn born a buck should die. And they should stay in exactly the same places, too. A perceived change in climate is indicative of a problem, maybe disaster. When I moved into this neighborhood it was great, a family of Somalis has since moved in down the block and the place has gone to hell.

If you want your woodland browsed out by deer, fine. I like our ancient woods as they were for a thousand years and more.

Actually the problem for Britain's woods is not, in the main, Red Deer, but those illegal immigrant Muntjac. They are now Britain's most common deer with a liking for wild flowers. But they are very shy and so you almost never see them in the UK. Or Ireland which they somehow managed to reach.

Lord, are they in Ireland too? I suppose they must have taken over a car ferry. Subtle vermin, eh?

Northern Ireland and the Republic of. The presumption must be human intervention. But they are in Scotland and were found in Northern Ireland first. How wide is the sea at that point? I would love to think there is the slightest chance they swam.

But realistically, car ferry. In someone's boot no doubt.

Is it legal to hunt them?

It used to be but the hunt activities have been curtailed by the city socialists that can't stand to see someone that can afford to keep a horse chasing stags with a mob of similarly dressed posh. If the socialists ever even bother to propose a solution it will probably involve years of bureaucratic activity and a hugely expensive government program.

I've actually stopped coming to this blog for the articles and only come to see responses from "Just Another MR Commenter".

Still waiting for the H1B visa he promised you?

Is the border really open today? Can one really just walk across anywhere?

If red deer can migrate across open borders then why can't human beings?! So in our world DEER have more rights than Humans?!?! We're destroying our economy worrying about red deer migration when Facebook can barely stay operational for lack of manpower.

For a decade, there has been no border controls, as that was the date the Czech Republich joined the Schengen Area (Germany has been a member since 1985).

The fences and other physical barriers along the border were actively torn down? A deer isn't going to cross at the train tracks or road ways necessarily.

Yes, they were torn down almost 25 years ago. Only a very small piece remains as a museum. The border was pretty open ever since with only rather minimal border patrols.

About two deer generations, so they are somehow passing down the knowledge to offspring.

Red Deer??? This is exactly what McCarthy warned us of!!!

'One of the scientists involved told the BBC the deer are not ideological, “they are just very conservative in their habits.”'

I love that line. :) Poor deer are probably just afraid.

Darwinism at work - for three human generations, all deer that tried to move West were blown up by land mines or electrocuted on the fences. After a while, all you have left are survivors who, obviously, are stay at home sort of chaps.

I'm guessing the deer on each side of the border are culturally dissimilar. As readers of Bryan Caplan know, no deeraspora, no immigration across open borders. []

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