Country mouse watches the roads

Five years ago, this magazine suggested that the British deer population should be reduced by 30%. The evidence of damage to young trees and farmers’ crops was overwhelming. So, too, was the number of deer being killed on the roads. Now, a group of scientists has called for the population to be reduced by 50% before deer devastate the countryside and cause more serious road accidents.

As a nature observer, you can learn a lot from roadkill. In March, you will find a disproportionate number of cock pheasants run over compared to hens. The cocks, looking magnificent with their new scarlet wattles and dashing hairstyles, have a one-track mind in early spring. Badgers seem to be killed more often at this time of year, probably because they’re still dopey from their semi-hibernation over the worst of the winter.

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I rarely see a squashed hedgehog now. When I was a boy, they were the mammal you most often saw killed on the road, but their disappearance shows the plight they’re in. That the numbers of their mortal enemy the badger have risen so sharply tells its own story. Foxes also suffer a sharp rise in road mortality in early spring, due to travelling to find a mate and not being in familiar territory. Drive carefully.

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