Egon the gentle German elkwins reprieve from hunters
7 July 2004 , AACHEN - Egon the gentle elk that has been grazing his way through people's flower beds and vegetable patches all summer in a Rhineland village has won a reprieve and will not be picked off by hunters - for now. The handsome young 10-point buck, which left the woodlands and decided the flowers in front gardens and window boxes in the village of Einruhr were more to his liking, has at last won over the hearts of local residents. But that was only after a number of vocal complainers persuaded f
7 July 2004
AACHEN - Egon the gentle elk that has been grazing his way through people's flower beds and vegetable patches all summer in a Rhineland village has won a reprieve and will not be picked off by hunters - for now.
The handsome young 10-point buck, which left the woodlands and decided the flowers in front gardens and window boxes in the village of Einruhr were more to his liking, has at last won over the hearts of local residents.
But that was only after a number of vocal complainers persuaded forestry officials to put Egon at the top of a list of three elk to be culled when hunting season opens in August.
That was because Egon had munched his way through a few too many people's yards and gardens all spring and summer.
The forsythias were the first to go back in April. The tender yellow blossoms budded out one day only to be gobbled up by Egon the next.
Then when cherry and apple blossoms came along at local orchards, Egon came along right after them and ate all he could reach.
This region is noted for its strawberry patches, and Egon became a connoisseur of that sweet small berry, eating the plants down to the root whenever possible.
"I had a lovely Serbian fir tree, two metres tall it was," an elderly woman villager said this week.
The fir is no more.
"Egon ate all the new growth off and then chewed the limbs off," she said with a quavering voice. "It's nothing but a two-metre-tall stalk now. And as if that were not enough, he ate all my flowers and ornamental ivy and trampled all the perennials."
One resident tried to shoo Egon away with a broom but he tried to eat it. Another ran out of the house banging copper pans. Egon came over and sniffed, as if to see if there was any food in them.
Egon is not the least bit afraid of people. Children come up to him with bunches of wildflowers, which he lovingly sniffs and then devours. Kids can give him bunches of grass, for that matter.
Egon is not a picky eater and will not turn up his nose at much of anything. One small boy held a bunch of weeds under his nose and he ate them with as much gusto as the neighbour lady's prize petunias.
He has even taken to bringing along another elk, a young eight-pointer that local residents have dubbed Paul.
Asked why the pair are called Egon and Paul, one resident told a television reporter, "Well, Egon sort of looks like someone who would be called Egon, doesn't he?" The TV camera showed a 10-point elk munching on wildflowers and eyeing the camera dolefully.
"And the other one is more Paul-like, don't you think?" the resident said as the camera zoomed in on an elk that looked identical to the one called Egon, except that it was smaller and had fewer antler points.
Local hunters have laughed off the whole controversy and initially refused calls to gun down Egon and his pal.
"Any time people start giving wild animals pet names it's a really bad, bad sign," one veteran hunter was quoted as saying to the Koelnische Rundschau newspaper. "They start anthropomorphising the animal and thinking of it as Bambi's mother. Any hunter who takes aim at it will incur their eternal wrath."
But the laughing stopped when Egon decided one night to eat his way through the local cemetery. Next morning all the graveside flowers and shrubs were decimated and fresh graves were marred with hoof marks.
The cry went up for officials to "do something".
Regional wildlife authorities in Aachen considered capturing Egon and setting him loose in a corral.
"But the problem is that his antlers are too big," said regional wildlife director Thomas Pilgrim. "He won't fit in any transport we have. And besides, elk are good jumpers and he'll just jump out of any corral."
It was finally reluctantly agreed that Egon could be one of three elk eligible for culling when hunting season starts in a few weeks.
That is when what hunters call "Bambi's mother" syndrome took hold amongst the villagers. People who had railed against Egon's nocturnal eating habits suddenly realised they could not bear to see him actually killed.
More than 100 residents signed a petition demanding that Egon be spared. Wildlife authorities in Aachen - the same authorities who had been called in for action by those same upset residents - finally agreed it would be best to leave Egon in peace.
Animal rights activists in nearby Aachen have also launched a "Save Our Egon" campaign.
"Egon deserves to live here as much as any of the rest of us," a spokeswoman said. "Human beings wage war and kill each other and poison the plant. All Egon does is eat a few flowers."
Subject: German news