Pyrenees deer population reduced by a quarter after bumper winter snowfall

Six meters of snow were recorded in the higher mountain areas during January and February

A young deer dead from hunger in the Pyrenees.
A young deer dead from hunger in the Pyrenees. AGENTES RURALES

Red, fallow and roe deer starved to death in the Catalan Pyrenees due to the heavy snowfall and low temperatures registered early in the year. The very same weather that brought joy to fans of winter sports and local business owners also spelled tragedy for up to 30 percent of the deer population in the mountain areas of Pallars Sobirà, Vall d'Aran, Alt Urgell, Alta Ribagorça and Cerdaña, where most of these animals live.

Over six meters of snowfall were recorded in the higher mountain areas, and more than half a meter in the valleys, during the months of January and February. "The mantle that is created when there is heavy snowfall in a short period of time is soft, because it is not frozen, and the animals were trapped in it," explains Llorenç Ricou, director of Lleida province's forest ranger department.

The official death count will not be tallied until May, but until then, rangers estimate that between 25 and 30 percent of red, fallow and roe deer may have died, a mortality rate unheard of in the last three decades.

"The strongest males were better able to survive," says Ricou. Most of the dead animals were females, many of which were pregnant, and their young.

Roe deer, which rarely weigh more than 30 kilograms or stand higher than 75 centimeters, are "much weaker than the red deer; that's why they suffered more," adds Ricou. Fallow deer, which are slightly larger, did better. "They're much cheekier," says the ranger. "They went down to populated areas, where they were able to move around more easily and find some food."

Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS