Sunday, March 01, 2009

Predation in the Oostvaardersplassen

The Oostvaardersplassen is a nature reserve near my home. It is a nature reserve that happened by accident. It was in a low laying area and water aggregated there, it became a marsh area loved by water fowl and in a relatively short period it became one of the more important nature reserves in Northern Europe.

As geese were rare in the Netherlands, people were really happy to find that geese could actually breed in the Netherlands. A large area was reserved and it was optimised so that geese would have a home. Geese need short grass, so Heck cattle, koniks, and deer  were introduced to keep the grasslands open.

There are only so many animals that can live in a certain area and the deer, horse and cattle population has reached its upper limit. Consequently when winter comes early, animals die. It is particularly the young and the old that do. The Netherlands do not have predators that could regulate these animals. So it is for the forrester to fulfill the role of predator.

When an animal starts to isolate itself, when it no longer flees, the animal gets shot. Depending on the law, the law in this is an arse, the cadaver is removed or left in place. Dead dear may be left in place but there is one problem. Scavengers price a skull with antlers and consequently these people tresspass in this closed wildlife sanctuary.

So in order to maintain peace and quiet, the dead deer are decapitated, and it is left to nature to do away with corpses. This is an opportunity for eagles, raven, crows and foxes. They are doing really well. The only thing is, there could be many more in the Oostvaardersplassen.

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