SOUTH Somerset’s deer whisperer is set to become a star of the silver screen this week as his animal park takes centre stage on BBC’s Countryfile.

Mike Gage runs The South West Deer Rescue and Study Centre in Wayford, near Crewkerne, and is set to have his wonderful animal sanctuary and its inhabitants shown on television next week.

The centre is based on 80 acres of private land loaned to Mike so he can live out his passion of looking after deer.

After setting up at the site nearly seven years ago, Mike now has around 160 deer of six different species under his care, with the assistance of six volunteers.

However, Mike’s involvement in deer dates back more than 40 years, including looking after deer and taking them to work as a plasterer and working at a nature park in Tiverton.

He said: “My interest in deer first began when I was working down in Exmoor.

“On my drive home I saw some in a field, so went home and got my camera in order to take some pictures of them. I found I could get really close without disturbing them.

“I’ve since spent so much time with the creatures I can tell what they’re feeling.”

Chard & Ilminster News:
Reporter Oliver Palmen has a go at feeding a deer

Mike has five stags within his group, and the species of deer include fallow deer, muntjacs, Japanese sika, red deer, white deer and axis deer.

Ken Kneil, one of the volunteers, said: “The Countryfile directors came down about a fortnight ago and they loved it and then they came with the whole crew on Thursday.

“They organised for children from a Chard school to go in with the fallow deer, and then the kids started jumping round in the puddles. It was great."

Chard & Ilminster News:

Big Jack, a red deer stag, pictured last week

Ken added: “The rescue centre is all run by donations. Mike set up the fences and everything with his pension pot, and then other parts like the sheds were donated by local companies.

“Mike knows every one of the deer by name and all their families. His knowledge is absolutely amazing. What he doesn’t know about deer you could fit on a postage stamp.”

Mike and the rescue centre are set to be shown on BBC1 on February 4 at 6.30pm.

Personal guided tours are conducted daily by appointment at 10.45am. To book, call at least 24 hours before your visit, on 01460 64174.

Chard & Ilminster News:

A group of red deer crossing the Somerset countryside