Praying Mantis

Praying Mantis

I haven’t seen one of these for a while. This European Praying Mantis (Mantis religiosa) was under the plastic sheet covering a pile of gravel I have in the garden. Freaky, alien creatures….

Years back, in Portugal, I kept one as a pet and the only thing it wouldn’t eat was a Cicada – but they’re even scarier…..

Young Red Fox

Young Red Fox

We have a new visitor to the garden – a young red fox (Vulpes vulpes). Unlike the manky, hairy old fox I chased out the other week, this one seems quite naive and obviously hasn’t been through a hunting season yet. Recently, Slovakia announced open season on all foxes and raccoon dogs in an attempt to curb their population growth. While foxes are cute, they are the number one cause of rabies in the area.

Fallow deer buck

Fallow deer buck

This was a particularly friendly Fallow deer (Dama dama) buck we encountered as an attraction at an unusual location. The owners of a former brothel, in quite a remote village,, obviously decided to change their ‘theme’ and keep Fallow deer in order to attract visitors. Unfortunately, their business plan doesn’t seem to be working as, like us, people just stop, take photos and then leave. The owner was annoyed that we didn’t want drinks.

I had to wipe deer saliva from my camera lens after this as the young buck decided to give it a good licking. Poor thing was being terrorized by horseflies as well.

Raccoon Dog Slaughter Season

Ever since I first saw one stuffed and mounted in a small village bar in the Pieniny National Park in Slovakia, I have had an interest in the Raccoon Dog (Nyctereutes procyonoides) – at first I didn’t even believe such a creature existed in Europe. Having been thus far unable to locate them alone, I have spoken to hunters in my village to ascertain their whereabouts. Their response is usually to show me ones they’ve shot, kept as photos on their mobile phones.

I’ve explored several areas of forest in my area, I’ve read up on their habits and usual haunts, and still have had no luck in seeing them in the flesh. I know roughly where to find them, in an area of woodland heavy with boar and wolf, and hunters with itchy trigger fingers.

Three nights ago, on Slovak TV news, it was announced that due to their apparently huge population, all hunting restrictions would be lifted on them. Where this statistic comes from, I’ve no idea. As deer season has ended, and boars are restricted to specific categories, hunters will be out in droves looking for a kill. The Raccoon Dog, an ancient canid from Japan, released by the former Soviet Union for its fur, will become Target No.1.

This news disturbed me so much that I woke up angrily thinking about it. I am now more determined than ever to see them before they get wiped out. I’m even considering starting a sanctuary for them.