In 1989, the Velvet Revolution heralded the end of Communist rule in Czechoslovakia and the country began dismantling its fortified border with Germany. During the Cold War, a long stretch of electrified fences and armed guards tightly controlled traffic between the nations. While the fence was made to limit human travel, wildlife also discovered that they were separated by the insurmountable barrier. Nearly 25 years after the removal of the fence, red deer still respect the old boundaries.

According to UPI, a study by Czech biologist Pavel Sustr found that red deer on both sides of the Czech-German border still give the area where the fence was a wide berth. The six-year study followed 300 GPS-tagged deer living inside the Bavarian Forest, the largest forest in Central Europe and one that runs through both Germany’s state of Bavaria and the Czech Republic’s Sumava National Park. Despite existing in the same forest, Sustr found that deer on the German side almost never strayed over to the Czech portion of the forest, and the same was true for Sumava’s deer herds.

“The border still plays a role for them and separates the two populations,” Sustr told the Associated Press.

Red deer have an average lifespan of 15 years so it’s unlikely that any of today’s deer have memory of the fences, yet the deer’s aversion to the border persists. Sustr explained that since fawns learn where to go from their mothers, the deer are avoiding the border simply because they have been taught so for generations.

However, researchers found a few exceptions.

“We have from the start one male deer that immediately after the melting of the snow crosses the border from the Czech side to Bavaria to find the same meadow every year on the Bavarian side. We knew about this exception from the start,” Sustr told Radio Prague earlier this year. “There was also later a male deer which was caught when it was one year old. He was not respecting all the rules we found before because he was moving in different areas on both the Czech and Bavarian sides of the border.”

German researchers, who previously conducted their own studies into Bavaria’s deer population, said the phenomenon keeps the animals from taking full advantage of Europe’s largest nature preserve. While ruined watchtowers can still be seen along the border, the area is now turned over to the denizens of the forest. Sustyr told The Wall Street Journal in 2009 that some of the younger deer are beginning to explore and that eventually, red deer from both sides of the border may be reunited.

Image from Mehmet Karatay on the flickr Creative Commons

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12 thoughts on “Study: European Deer Still Respect Cold War Border

  1. The deer have learned the lesson of Social Justice far better than humans. Here in America, one political party is hell-bent on resurrecting that Communist ideology in the name of “unity” – when even the animals could tell them that’s a terrible idea…

    1. perhaps it would be helpful for you to consult a dictionary for the meaning of the word “communist.” it turns out not to be synonymous with “Democrats I don’t like.”

      1. I guess you’re unaware that “social justice” was introduced to the UN by the Soviet Union in the late 1960s, and designed by be “a substitute for the protection of human rights.” See the 2006 United Nations report titled, “Social Justice in an Open World.”

      2. my first exposure to social justice was in Sunday School, when we studied the Sermon on the Mount, which was given a few years before the sixties as I recall.

      3. Next, I suppose you’ll tell me that the Soviets embraced Christ. The “social justice” of Jesus boiled down to individual giving: “Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” The new “social justice” is all about forced redistribution. “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person … if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.” Who’s doing the redistribution, eh? That would be the purveyors of “social justice.”

      4. Who’s doing the redistribution? The people. We have a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, remember? And no, I won’t tell you the Soviets embraced Christ. I can’t even tell you that American conservatives have embraced Christ. It’s easier for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven. Remember?

      5. We’ll have a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, until the day we don’t. Democracy can only last until “the people” realize they can raid the treasury. That happened long ago, and now the redistribution is accelerating.

        When they come for yours, will you part with it willingly, as Scripture demands? (I suspect that, when push comes to shove, you and I will probably react in much the same way. Unless you’re a hard-core Communist who will embrace the suck of true “income equality.”)

      6. This paranoia about communism is just weird, given that there are no communists any more. Putin doesn’t give a crap about communism, neither do the Chinese leaders, they both just care about power, and the very weak communist parties in Western Europe are gone. It’s over. There are no communists. Liberals who think that maybe the richest country in the history of the world should fine a way to get everyone good medical care are not communists, any more than conservatives are fascists. As long as you keep pretending otherwise this conversation is a bore.

      7. I happen to be running for president of my local union in Sacramento – UAW 2350. I’ve worked for several unions for more than 20 years, and it’s a stone cold fact that many many union leaders in America are Marxists. A former president of SEIU Local 1000 – whom I know personally – once handed out copies of Mao’s Little Red Book at a statewide union meeting just a few years ago. So don’t tell me there are no Communists any more. I know some of them …

      8. Sorry — yes, there are Marxists. Also flat-earthers, Zoroastrians, levitators, and those who believe the moon is made of cheese. What I meant to say was that there are no Marxists in mainstream politics, anywhere, and that your linking of Democrats and Communists is historically illiterate and stupid. And, yes I get out a lot, around this country and all over the world. Used to have some friends in Italy who considered themselves communists, because it was the least corrupt of the major parties — the Christian Democrats were so enmeshed with the mafia and the church that it took a massive national effort to begin to clean up that party. Perhaps I took you too literally in your first comment: “…one political party is hell-bent on resurrecting that Communist ideology in the name of unity.” I assumed, perhaps wrongly, that you were the usual dumb right-winger who couldn’t tell the difference between the Democratic Party (which is, ideologically about where Rockefeller Republicans were forty years ago) and the Communists. Maybe instead of being that moron you were just being witty. Mea culpa.

  2. All it will take is one brave individualist deer that thinks for itself to step across the invisible border, and more will follow. Unless they act like crabs in a bucket, where if one attempts to escape, the others will drag it back down with them.

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