In recent years, a number of roe deer from the Israel Nature and Parks Authority’s Carmel Hai Bar wildlife preserve have been set free at Ramat Hanadiv.
Roe deer have gradually been exterminated from the eastern Mediterranean region, where they used to be widespread.
Hunters sold their flesh and horns, the latter being used for combing wool and as decorative hangers in rich houses of the period.
The last roe deer population survived in the densely wooded parts of the Carmel – but they too were eliminated at the beginning of the twentieth century, in a mass hunt organized by a German butcher from Haifa.
The last roe deer was shot in 1912 by Mustafa Bustangi, a hunter from Ussfiah, at the request of Israel Aharoni, often termed "The First Hebrew Zoologist".
Aharoni's request reflected the belief among zoologists at the start of the twentieth century that "nature is infinite", and therefore no limitation needed be imposed on hunting animals for taxidermy and preservation in museums, or for research purposes.
The roe deer is the last large mammal that became extinct in the north of the country, and according to the rules of preservation of nature prevalent throughout the world, animals that were the last to become extinct should be the first to be reinstated to their natural habitats.
However, reinstating deer to their natural habitat is an especially complex project, as it is very difficult to breed and rear them in captivity.
As the roe deer has become completely extinct in our region - deer were brought to the Carmel Hai Bar from Europe. The deer were imported from Holland, Hungary, France and Italy and although they originated from different climates in most cases, they acclimatised well.
The biggest problem with the reintroduction of this species was the selection of a suitable release site. Five deer that were set free in 1996 in the upper Carmel were devoured within a week by jackals and wild bore that have proliferated in the Carmel woods.
In the wake of this experiment, a new area in the southern part of the Carmel was chosen. This area features a water spring that is active throughout the year and, at the time of release, a limited jackal population, and is relatively safe from such human intervention as hunting.
On the day of their release from the Hai Bar, the deer were anesthetised with tranquilizers and fitted with telemetry transmitters attached to their necks. They were transported that same day and released from wooden crates directly into the woods. The deer took a brief look around at their new surroundings, and bounded off into the trees and shrubs.
Bill Woodley, a field zoologist whose work involves the management, breeding and monitoring of wildlife, keeps track of the deer via a radio receiver, and monitors acclimatisation and later their habitat preferences.
Avinoam Lurie believes that once the deer take their place in the natural forest, they will assist the renewal of natural woods by grazing on cistus, other shrubs and annual vegetation.
In February of 1998, a female deer was illegally trapped and killed in the Binyamina area. It was identified as one of the six deer set free in 1997. The collar with the telemetry transmitter was cut off and discarded in a local stream bed.
Since that time, additional releases have been made at Ramat Hanadiv, and more recently in Har Horshan less than 10 Kilometres East. Although there have been numerous cases of predation mainly by dogs, the general population of Roe seems to be increasing as observations of this animal are on the rise annually. Animals observed without radio collars are the offspring of the original reintroduced stock that are now spreading both to the South and East of Ramat Hanadiv.
Let us note that the roe deer are not the only ones receiving a second chance: in the Nahal Kziv reserve, dozens of fallow deer have been set free. These are far bigger than the roe deer, and they were hunted and exterminated from the Israeli landscape as far back as the nineteenth century. So far, it seems that they are acclimatizing well and that they are succeeding in increasing their numbers.