Tuesday, August 09, 2016

The Thin Red (Deer) Line

After the Berlin Wall came down, red deer on both sides of a similar war along Czechoslovak and West German and Austrian borders continued to respect the now-imaginary boundary wall.

The phenomenon came to the attention of scientists tracking animals in Germany's Bavarian National Park, which borders the Czech Republic. In the seven years wildlife biologists have been tracking deer in the park, only two, a German stag named Florian and a Czech stag called Izabel have crossed the border to stay. Lately, some young males are exploring pasture on the other side, but they always come back. Females don't set foot in the once-forbidden area.

What's going on? Researcher Pavel Sustr, told The Guardian that "fawns follow mothers for the first year of their life and learn from them where to go." As a result, "animals stuck to traditional life patterns, returning every year to the same places."

Bottom line: Animals are very wary of new places and new behaviors. If they are taught to stay in a region, they tend to do that. New and unknown is generally maladaptive.


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