Wild Creatures Roaming in our Gardens

Hello All : On "our" beach, there are lots of strange animal prints, some of which are quite a fair size. Last night we saw something racing along at the edge of our garden. It moved pretty fast and was larger than a cat. I know there are some foxes, ragondin, buck, hedgehogs and the like around, but where can we find out what fauna is roaming at night? Like they say - It's a Jungle Out there :-)

I'll keep it short, I thought your view, David, was was pragmatic and succinctly put. Like most contentious issues, there are many red herrings cast about! So much so that the actual truth of the matter is completely obscured!

Still, to try to help the original query, I found the following web sites are a pretty good place to start: www.planetepassion.eu/ and www.herpfrance.com/

Well, true as that may be, the number of small farmers going bankrupt thus being dispossessed before anybody can inherit hereabouts is shocking. The people we bought from just managed to build a bungalow on the last bit of what was once the biggest farm here. The building is unfinished, the son will presumably survive his mother, there is a sister and a niece. The niece is disabled anyway, so cannot work let alone farm. The aged mother and late father were Italian migrants from Mussolini dispossessions. The sister is getting on too and no doubt the niece will sell for next to nothing. Unless, as is likely, our neighbour goes broke and the place is taken by the bailiffs. Many other local farmers are too old to continue. Their farms are going to ruin, sooner or later debt gets the better of them. It makes me feel like crying at times.

I believe there has been one case of a child bitten. That was in a garden but expressed as in 'the home' by certain sectors of the populist press. It has been 'amplified' by a hysterical rush of claims. Foxes do not hunt anything as large as a new born human, let alone a child playing indoors who is by then quite big. I read it too Jane. The plural 'children' is not as yet evidential.

Deer have been hit by speeding 4x4s that have then gone off the road. Again, read beyond headlines and look at more objective comments.

It is, at the end of the day, presentation. Deer and badgers are getting the blame now, soon it will be the farmers' turn again no doubt. None of it is quite as true as it is presented and that is a large part of the problem. Yet again, opinion and actions led by the urban majority who have no idea about how the world really works. Because I keep bees, I read a few bee things now and again. Urban beekeeping has increased massively throughout Europe. I read last year that a number of people in London have written to their MP asking that it be banned because of the 'grave threat' posed by bees stinging people!

Brian, one of the main problems here in France is the Code Napoleon, which divides up small farms and makes them totally unable to support the large numbers of inheritors which are often found.
The urban fox problem is now being voiced again in UK with the recent attack on young children in their own homes.
Man is now the only predator for wild animals and there numbers have increased beyond what the land can bear.
The deer problem is now being addressed because they are causing road accidents, not really because of the damage they do to crops and trees. This will be a fortunate outcome, but the farmers, I think, we’re not meant to be the main beneficiary.
You are absolutely right Brian, political thinking on agriculture and wildlife is run by the vast number of urban voters, who are divorced from the realities of rural life and land and stock management.

Yes Jane and we are both well aware that the outcry mainly comes from the depths of large cities where nobody is aware of how tenuous agriculture is for all but large corporate farms today. Nonetheless, animal overpopulation is subjective and we can argue both ways forever. The bottom line is that profit will always go before any other objective. In the past human beings coexisted better with nature, ate far more of it as well and it is only over the last century or so that the divergent movements of capital before nature and preserve nature at all costs has evolved. The former now thinks nothing of destroying human environments along with all else. Thus we read of the issues like the Masai Maara or Amazon developments and annual species extinctions running into thousands.

It is all very uncompromising. I had a horse, Charlie, who died of TB. There were no badgers locally but the then MAFF people who came out found domestic cats carrying the disease. They politely went round asking people to take their cats to the vet to be looked at and if they had it have them 'put to sleep'. Fine. However, well within the gestation period of TB in most mammals the MAFF people were gone, a few cats were gone but the small mammals and birds cats hunted that might well have been carriers were still there for other 'healthy' cats to predate. I was as frustrated as hell. My little paddock was quarantined for several months but cats hunted in it, mice and moles, etc were still there and I wondered what on earth was going on. It is all reaction without rationale and that strikes me as insane. In 2001 we had no local F&M but all footpaths, bridleways and so on were closed. Were birds exterminated? Scientists were saying that they could be vectors along with small mammals. Strikingly, our local hunt was still allowed out conditional on it not going near areas where livestock was kept. I hope the foxes and hounds read the instructions carefully!

Farming has become big business oriented Jane and now the likes of your family, the people I lived among in East Anglia and now increasingly here are being displaced by capital intensive large scale enterprise. Recent news has told of the decline of bees and other pollinators. The big business farmers prefer organically modified crops over those that are dependent on insects so richly doses them in insecticides. I see the hysteria the media are drawn into either way pro-animal or pro-farmer is what feeds both but leaves the truth somewhere in the middle almost unseen. The fact that it would make far more long term economic sense to have TB vaccines, fenced off areas of juvenile forest (some countries do already) and other meaningful measures is lost. The big business interests want high returns with low capital investment and care nothing about the environment. That is the problem and not the 'problems' themselves.

I can just imagine the outcry in the UK when the now out of control numbers of deer start to be culled. Poor Bambi!
The deer strip the bark of the trees from the bottom, as the grey squirrels take out the crowns at the top.
They also carry disease, foot and mouth etc. When the number of animals outgrow their local environment, they become weaker and fall prey to disease.
My family farmed on the Lancashire/Westmorland border, mainly small to medium family farms, with a few larger landowners. The agribusiness Brian speaks of is mainly in the flatter and richer lands of East Anglian.
Your polo pony breeding friend will be having another hard time, as polo itself is going through difficult times. It is not pc to be seen to be spending large amounts of money on the game, which is unfortunate, as it is my favourite spectator sport and one of the main things I miss in UK.
Here in France we have the problem of the numbers of wild boar being out of control and they have been officially declared a nuisance.
Our neighbour has recently given up farming and they are now renting out the land. The majority of their land is not good and has not had the investment needed to keep it in good heart, neither was there the money for veterinary care for the stock. It has been very difficult to see this happening and now that more proficient farmers are renting the land, we feel much happier.

It is how the genet that is from the same genus got here too apparently. Being bigger than cats and certainly more ferocious, they were domestic animals kept to control rats. As cats are doing now, they escaped or were abandoned and have been indigenised for a few hundred years.

Back in France now, Brian, but saw a mongoose in our garden in Mauritius, only last week. They were introduced by man to limit the rats, introduced by man. Sadly, they found the quail, introduced by man, an easier target, and now those birds have gone the same route as that other famous Mauritian bird, the dodo!

There are only 9 indigenous birds there, and it always seems a bit unreal to see sparrows hopping round the garden, crows flying over, and mynah birds building their magpie like nests on your terrace (Little sods!).

We are drifting away from Susan's original question but there is a point. I do not know enough about farming to be authoritative but lived in a 'farming' community for the best part of three decades. Two landowners farmed all land in our parish, I knew both well. One was more interested in breeding polo ponies than arable crops and so on but had a lot of land in and around one side of the parish thus farmed it and the other was purely a farmer with little interest in much else. The former not only inherited the farm from his father but also the chair of the parish council, the other farmer was his vice-chair. So it had been for many years. Two of us who were slightly younger than the former one were also council members. Thus, since it was like that we sat at each other's tables for dinner or whatever, rode together and so on. The two farmers began to feel the pinch, they could not cope with chairing the council any longer so the other 'young' councillor was asked to stand as chair. He worked in the City for a broker so got precedence over an academic. However, because he missed too many meetings and could not take on a school governorship and other duties it fell on me. Once chairing I got to hear the lot. The lot of those farmers and others in the area was not good.

Neither could afford the wages their workers demanded. The polo pony breeder had grooms and an assistant trainer as well as the usual farm workers. Even the CAP subsidies did not suffice. When the 2001 foot and mouth epidemic shut everything down all stock they owned lost an enormous amount of value. Pedigree breeding stock was valued at the same prices as all other stock. In fact we had no F&M at all locally, but since there was no sale or movement of stock no ponies were sold and cattle and sheep in the fields bred for slaughter went past when they should have gone to market.

The polo man became so depressed his wife left him a couple of times then divorced with a fairly large settlement that broke him. The other farmer got too old to continue to work his land but his son was not at all interested. The farm was sold off. These people had generations before them but go they had to. All of the land bar the two houses, one of which is the village manor house, now belongs to one very large corporation that mainly uses contractors to work the land. The few people left employed and working there now pay rents for their formerly tied houses but their wages have not gone up for several years. The actual 'farmers' are unknown in the village except for the few suits who come and go but at least use the gastro-pub, as it has become and is now the only business in the village.

I know this story because I lived there, have close friends there and include the now smaller scale polo pony breeder. They have kept me up-to-date. Farming is now no longer the peasant economy we romantically remember but a cut throat business. Take a penny away from them now and they whimper about injustice, which includes every effort to not pay workers minimum wages through such devices as their terms of employment being less than required to be full time work, knowing it is impossible to not work longer unpaid or risk losing job, home and all.

Jane, I do not wish to abuse farming at all myself. I see people around me here going against the wall too. Perhaps we all have nostalgic thoughts of The Archers circa 1956 and Walter Gabriel monologues, but now we should be thinking corporate managers and shareholders in many places. Those are the people who want every darned blade of wheat perfect and no badgers trampling it down, I exaggerate but not a lot. Those are precisely the people who should have invested in vaccines for livestock TB which they ironically forget is where Jenner started, albeit cowpox for smallpox. They have had 30 years at least to do something about it, have been told that by scientists and MAFF in its time and DEFRA since has done all but nothing. Those two farmers I knew said as much, neither was rich but both would have happily contributed a little unlike other local farmers in a similar situation who laughed at them but were the first to hold their hands out to receive whatever was offered to them. It seems to be a mixed bag and we are having the wool pulled over our eyes by the big concerns who pull the NFU's strings. That, in turn, is fed into Archers scripts and feeds public opinion along with ill informed media.

It is, it appears, partially what David is saying and for the other part complacency on the part of government in which there are far too many landowners in both houses with more loyalty toward corporate interests and their enrichment than toward the land or people who work on it. It is all a big machine that produces, end of story for them.

No David.

I suppose it's me that is making offensive remarks about farming. The pedigree value of any beast can only be determined if it's sold. In the meantime farmers are compensated at a notional value. A significant part of my family are involved in agriculture yet none of us see any reason for farmers being singled out for the special treatment they receive. Most farmers wouldn't cross the road to bail out the local corner shop owner who should his business fail loses business and family home yet if the same happens to farmer we are treated to endless emotional tosh about losing family heritage and what are the children to do. Farming failure creates opportunity for new entrants and we are constantly told by farmers how difficult it is for young would be farmers to get a start. They can't have it both ways. That's the market or so I believe and nobody loves the market more than a farmer. I shall continue to be abusive about farmers until the cows come home particularly in the light of the latest attacks on the Agricultural Wages Boards by those poor innocent farmers.

who? me???

Any pedigree that is a reactor is not given its pedigree value.

I find your comments about farming abusive.

David King wasn't it, just loathingly remembered the name, 12 years ago this month at its peak.

Yep, F&M and bridle paths closed because there were sheep in adjacent fields, blah, blah, blah... I had gangs of fun going in circles in a paddock for months until a government bozo said "Ooops, sorry..."

Oh gawd - this sounds like the F&M hysteria all over again :(

always have been Catharine....in fact.....the most recent story line is local resident...Linda who believe the TB connection to Badgers a lot of rot, has had to have her Llama put down as it too has contracted TB....you cant argue with that now can you.... ;-)

Aha -you are on the cutting edge then Carol :)

That is the height of science, of course! ;-)

Oh but I have found out more Brian....I listen to the Archers every week....! ;-)