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Deer “Management” in Ireland: wolves would do it better…

I just wanted to comment on a couple of recent articles in the Irish press.

The first is a call for a large harvest in Kerry, because local farmers and golf course owners are “at their wits end” due to deer damaging their property.

https://www.independent.ie/business/farming/forestry-enviro/environment/call-for-major-cull-as-deer-causing-havoc-farmers-and-property-owners-say-killarney-deer-are-ruining-lands-36773544.html

 

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Hey, you! Get off of my lawn!

 

On social media where this article is discussed, I’ve seen a few calls for the wolf to be reintroduced to help in such situations. Although I am firmly (see other posts I’ve written here) in favour of a wolf reintroduction to Ireland, I think the area around Killarney is not necessarily the best place to start. As I said before, Achill or Donegal would be better to start with. On the other hand, where there are no wolves, humans have to do their job. They can’t just leave things be. But that’s precisely what happens most of the time.

The other article clearly demonstrates this…

https://www.independent.ie/business/farming/rural-life/starving-deer-shot-after-others-were-found-starved-to-death-36763613.html

Two thirds of a small herd of around 45 deer have had to be culled as they are starving, on an island in the Kerry lakes, where four deer already died. They’d been there for a decade without any control on their increasing numbers and now there’s hardly anything to eat for them.

This is a microcosm of the problems we have on the island of Ireland. We let the situation get out of hand. Anyone with an eye in their head and a few neurons stitched together can see that the problems coming down the road, but nothing is done. Until the situation becomes untenable and something just has to be done. And the reaction is usually drastic.

The same can be said about deer management in general.

We have been hearing for years and years, since before I finished my PhD in this field 18 years ago, that we need a central countrywide, if not island-wide, management team – or just a manager – with statutory responsibilities and powers to do the job properly.

I put my name forward for it in discussions with COFORD, which had funded my project on studying the deer herd in Wicklow, and which was keen to support some logical steps towards avoiding the problems the forestry sectors were having. When a Inter-agency Deer Policy Group was formed and put out a request for proposals for a “Deer Management Policy Vision” in 2011 I put pen to paper and described what I believed needed to happen. Lots of other stakeholders did the same. We repeated the process in 2012.

What came of it?

Nothing.

Just the same old story.

And now the most important herd in the country, of genetically pure native red deer, is under threat of a large harvest because the local farmers and golf course owners are up in arms. While they might be exaggerating – a farmer suggested harvesting 300 deer, though where this figure came from is a mystery – and complaining about droppings on the greens seems a little pedantic (and could be fixed by a deer fence around the course if they were willing to completely eliminate deer from their fairways, which considering they spend €20,000 a year at the moment would probably be a good investment), it is symptomatic of what happens when there is a lack of clear management goals and action towards achieving them.

Stags and donkeys on lawn copy.jpg

well, the deer keep the lawn trimmed, and they do less damage than the donkeys… perhaps they’re a boon for golf fairways?

In the article about the starving deer, The National Parks and Wildlife Service is quoted as saying that balancing the needs of deer and ecology is “challenging.” That sentence, right there, is a stark example of what we are up against in Ireland.

Using wolves to reduce a deer population should be far from necessary in these situations – a relatively small number of deer in close proximity to/easy access from busy public amenities and livestock farms – but from what one farmer states it is costing him currently (€10,000 a year) it would actually be cheaper to have wolves in the area, even factoring in the probable damages to sheep herds it might entail.

Of course, they’d have to redesign Killarney to cope with all the extra ecotourism traffic…

 

 

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Happy Holiday Hop

I’m participating in a blog hop for Christmas today…

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Here’s a holiday photo..

 

Christmas is a complicated time for a writer. Both for his or her writing and for the characters in his or her head.

We generally have some time off over the holiday season. We writers generally look forward to it, imagining we’ll have long quiet mornings to get some serious word counts down, or plot a novel, or just scribble down ideas as we ponder the virgin snow in our gardens.

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And at the back of our mind, we know that it’s as fictitious as the man in red. We’re surrounded by family, by food and preparations, by kids running around with toys that usually make noise, and require some putting together.

We do get some time, because as writers we make it. We get up early – perhaps not the night Santa Claus comes, just in case we bump into him in the hallway, but on other mornings. And we see the sun come up over the winter landscape as we scribble, or edit, or plot.

For our characters, our plots, our storylines, Christmas can be a crux, or a crossroads, or a cross we have to jump over or have our story impaled upon it. To move the story along it can help, or hinder. Characters who are not from the same place would logically separate for the holidays, go their separate ways, to their separate homes – even if they love one another very much, and I know because I left my girlfriend every Christmas until we got married. If their families are living close by, we are faced with the battery of family members who’d want to be introduced, and while it can be amusing to have some banter over the table, it can be too much, too complicated to include in a plotline that nowadays readers expect to be ever more streamlined and spare, free of unnecessary sub plots and minor characters.

So we skip it sometimes. We gloss over it. If we have to deal with it at all – sometimes the timeline nicely avoids the whole season. In my most recent adult novel, The Ecology of Lonesomeness, Kaleb the American scientist, stays in Scotland for Christmas, since he’s Jewish and isn’t expected back home by his parents. He’s going out with the daughter of fairly strict Scottish Presbyterian, which might have provided some laughs, but also some awkward moments, and it would have bogged down the story; we’d already found out much of what we needed to know about Jessie’s parents, and more would have become boring. So a few comments about how well it had gone and how good an impression Kaleb had made by just being there and attending morning service with the family sufficed.

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In my only other novel that had to deal with Christmas, Leaving the Pack, the two main characters are also very different in their approach to Christmas. Paul, of a race of men who are the origins of the werewolf myth and who worship the wolf, has no familial obligations at Christmas, and is happy to accompany Susan, his “normal” girlfriend to her family for lunch (though he does make her miss morning mass… The rest of the day is leapt over, because Susan’s family, since they’re not werewolf-like, are very peripheral to the story line.

Leaving the Pack by David J O'Brien - 200

 

Leaving the Pack is part one of my Silver Nights Trilogy, the two other parts of which I am currently editing. My plan is to submit them to my editor and publisher in Tirgearr Publishing as soon as submissions reopen after the holidays. To this end, I have grand plans to work while I have some time off from my day job teaching high school science… of course, I have a 4-year-old who’s waiting to put up the tree, a 10-day old son who hasn’t yet figured out that his dad has other children besides him, most of which are imaginary but equally demanding to have their adventures written down,an extended Spanish family who will expect to see said son and me for their intensive three-day family celebrations, complete with Basque version of Santa, dinner on Christmas Eve, Lunch on Christmas Day and St Stephen’s day, as well as the serious gift-giving on Little Christmas when the Three Kings come… The only reason I don’t have to squeeze in a trip home to Ireland in between is because said son is too small to travel as yet (and hasn’t got the travel documents in time). But I will find some time, and get my submission in.

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I’m offering a prize today of a copy of Leaving the Pack – a werewolf novel like no other you’ve ever read, written by a scientist about the truth behind the myth.

Leave a comment and let me know whether you prefer to read about Christmas in a novel or skip it to get to the other plot points to be put into the draw.

 

Blurb of The Ecology of Lonesomeness:

Kaleb Schwartz isn’t interested in the Loch Ness Monster. He’d enough cryptobiological speculation about Bigfoot while studying the Pacific Northwest forests. He’s in Scotland’s Great Glen to investigate aquatic food webs and nutrients cycles; if he proves there’s no food for any creature bigger than a pike, then so much the better.

Jessie McPherson has returned to Loch Ness after finishing university in London, hoping to avoid the obsession with its dark waters she had when younger and first discovered lonesomeness. She knows any relationship with a scientist studying the lake is a bad idea, but something about Kaleb makes her throw caution to the depths.

When Kaleb discovers Jessie’s lonesomeness refers not just to the solitude of the loch, he’s faced with an ecological problem of monstrous proportions. Can he find a way to satisfy both the man and the scientist inside himself, and do the right thing?

10% of the author’s royalties will be donated to WWF, the World Wildlife Fund.

Blurb of Leaving the Pack, Silver Nights Trilogy Part 1:

Nobody believes in werewolves.

That’s just what Paul McHew and his friends are counting on.

They and their kind roam our city streets: a race of people from whom the terrible legend stems; now living among us invisibly after centuries of persecution through fear and ignorance. Superficially Caucasian but physiologically very different, with lunar rhythms so strong that during the three days of the full moon they are almost completely controlled by their hormonal instincts, you might have cursed them as just another group of brawling youths or drunken gang-bangers. Now at the point of extinction, if they are to survive their existence must remain restricted to mere stories and legend, but, paradoxically, they also must marry outside their society in order to persist.

The responsibility for negotiating this knife-edge is given to Paul, who runs the streets with his friends during the full moon, keeping them out of real trouble and its resultant difficult questions. Having succeeded for years, he finds his real test of leadership comes when he meets Susan, a potential life-mate, to whom he will have to reveal his true identity if he is ever to leave his pack.

10% of the author’s royalties will be donated to WWF, the World Wildlife Fund.

Author Bio:

David is a writer, ecologist and teacher from Dublin, Ireland, now living in Pamplona Spain. He has a degree in environmental biology and doctorate in zoology, specialising in deer biology and is still involved in deer management in his spare time.

As an avid wildlife enthusiast and ecologist, much of David’s non-academic writing, especially poetry, is inspired by wildlife and science. While some of his stories and novels are contemporary, others seek to describe the science behind the supernatural or the paranormal.

A long-time member of The World Wildlife Fund, David has pledged to donate 10% of his royalties on all his hitherto published books to that charity to aid with protecting endangered species and habitats.

You can find out more and read some poems and short stories at https://davidjmobrien.wordpress.com/ and can join David on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/DavidJMOBrien

 

To see others on the blog hop, click this link...

 

Third day of Lonesomeness Review Tour

On another two sites today.

One has an interesting review – is The Ecology of Lonesomeness a romance novel with science or a science novel with romance?

In my own opinion, it’s hard to put this novel in a category that lets the reader know what they’re in for. I’d like to call it Science Fiction, or Biological or Ecological Fiction, so that people don’t expect space ships, but those categories aren’t really used…

http://sharinglinksandwisdom.blogspot.com.es/2015/11/the-ecology-of-lonesomeness-review-tour.html?showComment=1448360239446#c7609415692878482056

 

I’m also on this site with a charming review from an Italian reader, http://libriamicimiei.blogspot.com.es/2015/11/review-giveaway-ecology-of-lonesomeness.html?showComment=1448381038100#c8177540790025763305

 

Don’t forget you can enter a draw for a gift voucher as well as a free copy of the book. The more sites you click on the greater your chances!

 

 

 

 

Writing Women as a Man; are all writers equal?

I got a review of my novel The Ecology of Lonesomeness the other day. It was good: five stars. I was delighted. This paragraph struck me: “I’ll be honest, too, that I don’t think a lot of books by men in the romance genre really and truly portray women correctly. But, this author manages to do that with Jessie very well. She is a complicated character and she manages to be complicated without being whiney or annoying – which is always a plus!”
I don’t know why this is; I mean, why a lot of books by men don’t portray women correctly, or that complicated characters would be whiney.
I do know that most romantic writers are women, or at least have female pen names, and most male writers don’t write romance – under their own name, at least.
There is definitely an expectation of this – no, a surprise I’ve experienced when I have been interviewed about my romance novels. Which, in my view and that of their publisher, are contemporary novels with romance, more than straight romance. The surprise that I write such romance as I do under my own name; excluding my J.D. Martins novellas, which are romance.
And I hope that readers aren’t very prejudicial against male writers that they’d pass one over in favour of a female name.
Why should male writers “normally” write female characters and points of view badly? After all, the opposite is rarely commented upon. Nobody said JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter, or Ron, or Dumbledore all wrong (though she did use an ambiguous name to publish under). And surely there are male points of view in many romance novels (don’t read too many, myself, I admit).
I wrote Jessie from The Ecology of Lonesomeness, and Susan in Leaving the Pack (and Cora in the sequels), and Julie in The Soul of Adam Short, as people first, and female second. The sex (if there is any, depends on the book) might be a bit different, but the need for, and capacity for, love is the same. And every other desire and motivation is also equal between the genders. At least as far as I am concerned.
Perhaps I’m different. I suppose I am, though I don’t feel much different. However, I don’t think it hard to get into the mind of a female character, if you consider women your equal. Many men don’t. But that’s a problem of their own emotional growth, or lack of it. Many men are so obsessed with their own inadequacies that they fear women – or fear strong women (strong means equal here, in case you missed it).
Luckily, male writers are not usually like that. Their inadequacies are firmly sitting in their literary challenges. Their relationships may or may not be great, but they know they are in a business where (and I know the inequality exists even if I believe it is more in the readers’ minds) women are just as proficient as they are – if not more so, to be honest.
All writers are not equal, but the division is not based on gender.
So give a male writer a chance. You might be surprised as so many other readers.

Rewilding calls from the British Isles

The term rewilding has become part of our language. Just a couple of years after it was coined, rewilding is happening across Europe. Rewilding Europe (http://www.rewildingeurope.com/) have made great strides in returning emblematic animals like the bison and brown bear to former haunts on the mainland.
Without constant persecution, numbers of large mammals, including predators are up across Europe (http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/dec/18/brown-bears-wolves-and-lynx-numbers-rising-in-europe).

But what about the European islands?

Are they a lost cause?

Well, the word is being used, and calls are being made (http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/news/article1498773.ece).
A slew of articles have backed up George Monbiot‘s constant mantra for lynx at least to return to the rewilded birch forests of Scotland: Wildlife trust calls for return of lynx to curb deer numbers (http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/news/article1498780.ece), Simon Barnes: bring back the cat (http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/others/article1842743.ece).

But it will be harder to have bears returned to Britain like they are returning to Italy and other mainland nations because citizens of that island are unused to living with them (http://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/if-you-go-down-woods-today-you-re-big-surprise-europe-s-bears-are-back)

In Ireland, the lynx wasn’t around as recently as the bear and wolf, and it’s the wolf that most rewilding thoughts are focused on, including my own: https://davidjmobrien.wordpress.com/2014/03/05/further-information-about-wolves-and-deer-management-in-ireland/
And yet, it seems we’re farther back even than Britain. A recent article on Irelandswildlife.com (http://www.irelandswildlife.com/grey-wolf-re-introduction-ireland/) discussed the matter, and concluded that the time is not right, and probably won’t be for a long while yet.

It’s hard to disagree. I recently discussed the matter with an ecologist colleague. He laughed out loud at the suggestion of bringing back the lynx to a country whose farmers can’t stop themselves killing white tailed eagles they think are killing their lambs.

But we can’t stop pushing the word, the work that lies ahead. As long as people are talking about it, as long as people who would not think about it are beginning to understand it, to see what it’s all about, we’re making progress.

I had a lot of these ideas in my head when I was writing my new novel, The Ecology of Lonesomeness, last summer. It’s set in Scotland, where a lot of rewilding the island of Britain is focused, and rewilding is discussed often and in depth by the characters.

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“Loch Ness Rocks” by Ben Buxton – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Loch_Ness_Rocks.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Loch_Ness_Rocks.jpg

I will tell you all about the story in another post.

However, I will say now that it turns the rewilding problem on its head, and asks what if there were an endangered species discovered to have hung on there, despite our cleansing of the countryside? Would it be protected?