Red deer along the Czech-German border still fear crossing Cold War boundaries, according to a new study.
The Sumava National Park along the border of the Czech Republic and Germany is the largest protected wildlife enclosure in Western Europe. During the Cold War, the mountainous region was divided by three parallel electrified fences that were patrolled by armed guards. The fences separated not only two nations but also a herd of red deer that once roamed freely through the region.
Many deer – and several people for that matter – died trying to cross the barrier. Deer on both the Czech and German sides quickly learned to stay away from the border.
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Nearly 25 years later, the herd’s fears have been passed down to a new generation of red deer, even though the barrier no longer exists.
According to the Guardian, a seven-year study conducted by biologists on both sides of the border shows that the new generation of the herd are still afraid to cross the border where the barrier was.
“It was fascinating to realize for the first time that anything like that is possible,” said Pavel Sustr. one of the lead Czech biologists involved in the study.
Red deer have an average life expectancy of 15 years, so all of the deer who were alive when the barrier existed are dead. When the new generation of the herd was born, they learned to stay away from the border.
“Fawns follow mothers for the first year of their life and learn from them where to go,” Sustr said.
Sustr also said that red deer are “really conservative” so there’s no telling as to when they might, if ever, cross the border again.
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