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Restoration of fallow deer population

New Thracian Gold, the National Hunting and Fishing Association - Union of Hunters and Fishermen in Bulgaria, Hunting and Fishing Association "Sokol"- Krumovgrad and the Society of the Hunters and Fisherman of Kardzhali work on a joint project for the restoration of the fallow deer population in the Eastern Rhodopes.  In 2013, the NTG team released more than 50 fallow deer within Tintyava region in the Krumovgrad Municipality and Chernoochene village near the town of Kardzhali.

The aim of the project is a step by step recovery of the fallow deer populationin the whole Eastern Rhodopes.

First sites for reintroductions were chosen after a serious research which included the quality of the available habitats as well as the willingness of the local hunting groups to mitigate the poaching and to work for the restoration of this species.

Fallow deer occurred widespread in ancient Bulgaria. It features in illustrations and sculptures of Thracian cultures like Panagyurishte and Lukovit and bone remains have been found in almost all Bulgarian prehistoric settlements. It is assumed that fallow deer was exterminated during the Middle Ages. At the beginning of last century its recovery in Bulgaria began. In 2012 again over 6,500 fallow deer lived in Bulgaria. The largest concentration of 1,500 animals inhabits the area south of the Studen Kladenets Reservoir.

Although the species spreads in a natural way in the Eastern Rhodopes poaching activity does not allow the species to recover outside protection zones. It needs joint initiatives of nature organisations and hunting societies to guarantee safe conditions in new terrains. The fallow deer for Tintyava are acquired from the Studen Kladenets Reserve. Here lives the largest wild population in Bulgaria. The other interesting aspect about Studen Kladenets area is that the rich wildlife population coexists with wolves. Wolf predation is everyday’s reality and fallow deer apparently know how to cope with this menace.

The most important role of fallow deer in nature is to maintain the mosaic landscape of the Eastern Rhodopes. This is of great importance for the conservation of the rich biodiversity of the region. Remains of dead deer are an important food source for Griffon, Egyptian and Black Vultures.Numerous deer in the landscape like in the Studen Kladenets offers a unique safari experience to tourists. This is a unique selling point and can contribute to the increase of tourism and better incomes for the local people.

Adult fallow deer has a length of about 140 cm and a height of 90 cm. The average weight of male deer is 60-90 kg. Females are lighter - about 40 kg. The male’s antlers are expanded as a shovel. Females do not have antlers. Coat on the back is dark brown with white spots and large oval dark stripes down the middle. Sides and belly are lighter. In summer  the color tone  is rusty and in winter almost gray. It is possible to encounter white (albino) and black fallow deer.

Fallow deer inhabits the plains and low hilly deciduous forests with vast meadows, preferring the mosaic fringes. Fallow deer live in herds of several females with young, while males live separately. It reaches an age of 20 to 25 years, feeds on grass, trees and shrubs. In the mating season, which is in October and November, the males fight fiercely for females.

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