REVIEWING A MEMORABLE AND CAPTIVATING DAY AT THE SCOTTISH DEER CENTRE IN FIFE
Set in fifty five acres of Fife countryside, the Scottish Deer Centre (SDC) near Cupar, is committed to the preservation of deer species and a number of other animals. Providing a natural home to deer, raptors, brown bears, wolves and wild cats, the SDC provides an educational facility as well as conducting research. Above all the SDC is a fun day out for all and I went along last week to see what was there.
Found at the Bow of Fife, the SDC has many well marked out and maintained walks that anyone can follow and observe a selection of animals. Most importantly of all, there are the deer. The park is home to twelve different species of deer and one of the first things that struck me was just how domestic and tame they were. I was mesmerized at being able to be so close and stroke one of these beautiful animals. They are so gentle and friendly it really was a joy. I hadn’t realized that there were so many different species of deer. Apart from the Red, Roe and Fallow deer I had not experienced the other breeds. There are deer from all over the world.
I have to admit that I imagined, just as the name suggests, there to be nothing but deer there but I was mistaken. There are a number of different animals, some native to the UK and others from overseas. I was absolutely taken by observing Highland Wild Cats. These are extremely difficult animals to see in the wild and, even in captivity like this, they are still very shy. I did hang around, my persistence paid off and I managed to see them. Another quite majestic animal was the European Bear. The sheer size and volume of them was quite remarkable. I was able to walk past the Moose, the Red Fox, Northern Lynx and Wolf Wood on my tour.
Education is a big element of the work of the SDC and as well as providing tours, they accommodate school groups. They have a number of different activities for education including the following :
- Wild School Trips
- Nose to Tail Tours
- Mini Rangers
- Pond Dipping
The SDC hosts a number of birds of prey and there are three displays everyday. I was lucky enough to be there at the right time to sit and watch a display of falconry and what a treat it was. It is really amazing to see such spectacular birds close up and learn a bit about them. As well being used for display, breeding and educational purposes, they are regularly taken up the glens and exercised and used at events.
The SDC has a range of daily activities from tours to otter feeding. These are in keeping with the centre’s ethos and education strategy. Offered daily are the following:
- Guided Tour – an introduction to Deer species from around the world and the diversity of challenges they face.
- Nose 2 Nose – 15 minutes in with a hand rear covering adaptations to life in the wilds of Scotland. This activity also covers antler growth and development.
- Birds of Prey – 3 demonstrations daily looking into this long existing practice and explaining the relationship of hunting with raptors in medieval times.
- Otter feeding – introduction to the biology and habitat needs of the Otter.
- Carnivore feed walk and talk – starting with the Wolves we explain the impacts on the food chain and habitats since the loss of this top predator. Next the Wildcats plight within Scotland is explained and the conservation efforts being made. We finish at the Red Fox describing its tenacity despite persecution and the relations it shares with very young deer.
- Trailer rides – a trip around the world and taking in the rarest Deer species promoting their conservation.
- Pond dipping – showing visitors the importance of habitats and communities and the amazing array of wildlife within a pond environment.
- Mini Rangers – aimed at younger visitors, explaining bio-diversity within common habitats and how you can help attract wildlife to your garden or School.
- Red Squirrel interpretation and feeding stations – the tree top walkway tells the story of the Red Squirrel versus the Grey Squirrel. Covering habitat needs, native and alien species and the trouble caused by the Grey Squirrel. There are two wild Red Squirrel families in the park with feeding stations erected for their use which is accompanied by interpretation.
- Nature’s Larder – interpretation explaining the array of food stores available to wildlife within a woodland and the species which may frequent these habitats.
- Pond area interpretation – explaining the habitat in full and throughout the changing seasons
I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the Scottish Deer Centre and would recommend it as somewhere for anybody to visit. Although they serve a distinct educational purpose and provide a lot of activities for children, a visit to the SDC is for everyone. I particularly enjoyed seeing the deer and the falconry display. Being so close the these majestic birds of prey was a real treat for me.
Facilities for disabled people were evident but felt like a little below par. Although the whole park is flat, I certainly wouldn’t like the job of pushing a wheelchair over some of the paths. Disabled toilets are behind a rickety sliding door in the ladies loo, not cool for guys like me who might like to access them! However, the SDC is generally accessible but could do with spending some money to improve this situation.