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Deer atop a hill in New Zealand
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Atop the Ridge
March 31, 2012   f/8   1/400 second
Deer are not native to New Zealand. You will find herds of Red Deer scattered throughout the land, but the introduction of deer into New Zealand was partly the result of nineteenth century class consciousness. In Great Britian one of the things that most distinquished the wealthy from the poor was the ownership of land. Most British people immigrated to New Zealand to gain ownership of land and with it a higher status in society. Since free land was offered to motivate British subjects to move  to New Zealand, land ownership became quite common, and those who were wealthy sought other ways to distinguish themselves. In the mother country hunting was a leisure activity afforded only to the wealthy. The wealthy in New Zealand wanted to bring that social distinction to their new society. In the nineteenth century, what better way to demonstrate your wealth, than to show that you could afford the luxury of paying for the passage of deer on a ship from England to New Zealand? Where I come from, in the United States, it is illegal to sell venison, and all forms of  wildlife are closely regulated. In New Zealand not only is venison offered in restaurants, but there is a deer farming industry, with large herds of captive deer grazing in green pastures like fenced-in cattle. Perhaps the difference in the regulation of the two countries lies in the fact that deer are not indigenous to New  Zealand. I am surprised that the deer don't make more of an effort to hop the fences and escape. In my home state I have seen whitetail deer effortlessly hop over fences as high as most of the fences I have seen on the South Island. I asked one of the farmers about it and he indicated that these deer have lived all their lives on the farm and have known nothing of life outside  the farm. One might be able to classify these deer as "domestic", but that doesn't make them "tame". To the contrary, I often found both the captive deer and the sheep in New Zealand surprisingly skittish and afraid. Perhaps the sparseness of the human population on the South Island made the animals unaccustomed to being around people. At first I wondered if poaching accounted for the fear (or should we call it "rustling" instead of "poaching"?)  After I heard multiple gun shots midday in an area that was covered with nothing but farms and vineyards, I began to wonder if some of the farmers themselves brought the animals to market by shooting them out of the fields. It was always difficult to get a photo of the deer on the farms without a fence, either in front of you, or running along behind the deer, not to mention farm buildings and other distractions. Here the deer were on the side of the hill, making good composition a little easier to create. These deer had been lower and closer to the fence, but the instant I stopped my car they quickly shuffled away to the top of this ridgeline. In their body posture you can read, that although they are farm animals, they are still quite uneasy and very much on the alert.
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