Villagers in southern France have launched a campaign to save their ‘village mascot’ deer from possible slaughter after a resident complained that it was eating their flowers.
The deer, known as ‘Monsieur le cerf’ (Mr Deer), has been living in the gardens of villagers in Eyne (Pyrénées-Orientales) for several months.
It is relatively common for deer to wander into individual gardens in the area but this one has stayed for much longer than usual and appears to show no signs of leaving.
Villagers say it is seen in different gardens across the commune every day, sleeps in the same place each night, and even lets people approach it to offer him food. Residents have shared images on social media and the deer appears to have brought happiness to many.
However, the animal now faces possible slaughter or forced removal after one resident complained to the mairie that it was eating the flowers in their garden, and had shown aggressive behaviour towards them.
But villager Mathilde Manya launched a petition to help save Mr Deer, and gathered 4,767 signatures in a few days. Local animal welfare association, Pil Poil, also organised a demonstration on the issue on April 16.
Ms Manya told France 3: “Some residents have complained that it ‘eats my flowers’. Maybe these people should move to a city; pigeons eat flowers all the time!
“In the meantime, we want to avoid the slaughter of this wild animal at all costs. Eyne is a mountain village surrounded by forests and a protected valley. This wild animal is at home.”
Meanwhile, the mairie has said that the issue has “gone too far”, and denied that it had ever ordered the slaughter of the animal.
Mayor Alain Bousquet said that the case is still with the biodiversity office l’Office français de la biodiversité, as it is the only authority with the power to make decisions on flora and fauna in the area.
The mairie shared a post calling for the “end of this slanderous information”, and said that no decision has been taken for the moment.
It added that it advised residents not to approach the animal with food, as it could harm it and cause accidents. It said that while deer are not normally considered to be dangerous, it is still a wild animal and could react in unexpected ways.