With devastating but quiet savagery the countryside is being destroyed by a million-strong herd of marauding deer. Surveys have shown their numbers are spiralling out of control and that they’re now tearing through crops and woodland like a pack of horned locusts.
Worse still, deer were responsible last year for 15,000 road accidents in Scotland alone. Ten people died, pinned to their headrests by those antlers after the animal came through the windscreen. Not a nice way to go.
A similar number were killed in East Anglia. And on one stretch of road through Cannock Chase in Staffordshire a deer is apparently hit once every three days. He must be getting awfully fed up with it by now.
Anyway, the government has decided to act. Amid howls of protest from gamekeepers, ministers have decided that a well orchestrated nationwide cull is needed. But this being the government, they’ve got themselves into a right old lather about it.
If it were a bacterium or a scotsman that was eating all the trees and killing 50 people a year, they’d act instantly to wipe it out. But deers have big brown soulful eyes. And that gives the luvvies a problem.
I mean, this is a government that has publicly declared undying love for foxy woxy, so even though the deer is engaged in wholesale slaughter of mankind, you can’t really visualise David Cameron running around the Highlands in a pair of stout wellies hosing down Bambi’s mum with a hail of machinegun fire.
As a result, ministers are going to great lengths to point out that the deer is a fine animal and must not be viewed as a pest or a nuisance. But that hundreds of thousands must, nevertheless, be shot in the face.
They’re even talking about allowing carefully selected and heavily licensed deer killers to roam the Highlands in the close season, shooting expectant mums. Quite something for a government whose local councils all over the country employ "deer liaison officers". Quite what a deer liaison officer does, I’m not sure. Personally, I’d rather spend his wages helping victims of the asian earthquake, but there you go.
My favourite part of the government initiative is watching them agonise over what should be done with the mountain of carcasses. Because, of course, they’re all vegetablists. And as a result it simply hasn’t occurred to them that they could be garnished with onions and eaten.
You can even eat the muntjac, which looks like a big rat and barks like a dog. But like crocodile and snake, it tastes of chicken.
This would be an ideal solution. Fat poor people who spend their limited resources on crisps and lard could be encouraged to roam around the woods at night killing deer. This way they’d get some exercise and a free meal.
But I fear that it won’t catch on, so I’m drawn to an idea that was first mooted a few years ago by a wealthy scottish landowner called Paul van Vlissingen. He spent £300,000 of his own money looking into the deer problem and has decided that the best way of keeping their numbers in check is by reintroducing wolves.
There’s no doubt that a pack of wolves gallivanting around the Highlands would keep deer numbers down and this would save the trees and crops. But I can’t help wondering what else Mr Wolf might eat.
Obviously Johnny Fox would be a tasty target, which is fine now that man isn’t allowed to hunt him any more. But what about the sheep? In the Alpine region of France a pack of just 30 wolves does its level best to keep lamb off the menu in most local restaurants. And we see a similar problem in Sweden where wolves, tired of eating deer, are helping themselves to pretty well anything that moves.
This brings me neatly to the wolf’s favourite amuse-bouche — us. Van Vlissingen says humans have nothing to worry about because in the last hundred years there hasn’t been a single recorded case of a person, or even a part of a person, anywhere in Europe, being eaten by a wolf.
He also argues that in Alaska and Canada humans and wolves live happily together. True, but that’s because in Alaska and Canada most people pack some kind of heat in the parka. Here however, we’re not generally allowed to walk around with a blue-steel .44. So I suspect the reintroduction of wolves would mean the odd rambler would go west.
This means everyone wins. The government keeps deer numbers down without turning its deer liaison officers into murderers. We will be able to drive faster in greater safety on the roads. The countryside gets an interesting new animal. And our Scottish ex-Prime MInister, Gordon Brown, gets eaten.