Cheesy title, I know 🙂 But deer are among the cutest animals for photography, are they not? Ranging from playful and cuddly to intimidating and stern, these animals evoke many emotions in the observer. Deer farms around the world are not uncommon, but deer sanctuaries, created out of a pure love for these animals, are tougher to find.

And to find one right alongside Croatia’s largest national park, Plitvice, is unusual as well. Not due to the nature part of it, but because the park and the area are geared toward making money from the tourism. A local family with a solid construction business decided to turn 15 hectares of forested land into a sanctuary for red deer and fallow deer. It was actually a pet project by the pater familias of the Bičanić family, whose love for animals brought all of it about.

What started out as a few indigenous red deer and some imported North American fallow deer, is now a bustling population of both. The family admits they are not completely sure how many fallow deer there are on the ranch, as they live and procreate in a dense forest and are skittish. They’ve also added several dozen black pigs, native to the eastern Slavonia region, as well as three horses.

As the entire population grew, the family realized they would need help with taking care of them. So they opened up the ranch doors to the public, with all proceeds spent on acquiring hay and corn. During visiting times, members of the family will show you around and explain the details, and offer corn to feed the deer that have grown accustomed to humans.

As they live in a natural setting, there are many opportunities to photograph them in their natural setting. If you ask nicely, the family may even allow you to wander around the area on your own and capture the animals in a more relaxed atmosphere. The ranch is quite attractive in any season, maybe less so during the heavy rains in April and November.

By Niki & Igor Nobilo

Photos from August 2017 and August 2018