Wageningen ecologist: wolf management sounds easy but is difficult to implement

Ecologist Hugh Jansman from Wageningen University sees how agriculture is struggling to survive in Drenthe. But he sees the phase Drenthe is now going through as a pioneering phase that is temporary, even though it may be a longer-lasting phase. “It will be years before we learn how to deal with the wolf.”

Asked about his reaction to the unrest in the Westerveld municipality due to the countless wolf attacks, he says: “For us, as ecologists, this unrest is not strange. We have a good relationship with ecologists in Germany, and there we see that all that goes on here has encountered it in the last ten, twenty years, so I think the most important thing is that the signals are now taken seriously by the policy makers and they start thinking about how to create an outlet for the emotions of fear.”

Transient fear

Jansman, who is involved in nature management and wildlife conservation in the Netherlands in Wageningen, points out that it is important that sociologists also look at the emotions of fear. Like: what exactly is going on here? “There is a big difference between risk and risk perception. A wolf is not immediately dangerous, but because it is new, we experience the wolf as exciting. In Germany, you didn’t dare leave your pram in the forest before while they were picking mushrooms. But five years later there had been zero incidents and everything was back to normal. The same goes for villages where the wolf appeared in playgrounds in broad daylight. So for years nothing happened and people are going back to order today. I think that is a natural reaction: something new comes along, we experience it as exciting, then we are extra careful, and then we see that the risks are acceptable.”

The Drenthe flock does not seem very shy. How does he view observations of the wolf in Drenthe close to humans? “What is the definition of shy? The assumptions about wolf behavior are often wrong. We often think that a wolf is a nocturnal animal that does not show during the day. But some wolves show in daylight. wolf is a wolf that approaches a human within 30 meters. A human in a tractor is not included. To prevent a wolf from getting close to people, you have to prevent those people from being around food, that’s the most important thing.”

Notes on management

Germany is often cited as an example of leadership. Why is leadership possible in Lower Saxony and not here? “Suppose that wolf x is a nuisance wolf and the government issues a permit to shoot. How do you ensure that the specific wolf is shot and not another one? Four times in Lower Saxony a wolf was shot for which the shooting exemption did not apply . . . This causes groups to go to the European Court of Justice in Brussels and challenge the policy in Lower Saxony. So leadership sounds very easy, but it’s incredibly difficult to keep it legally binding, let alone implement it.”

In addition, according to him, it makes no sense to shoot a wolf. “Leadership doesn’t work, research shows. It can even backfire. Chances are you shoot one of the parents, and then you send a class of young wolves out into the street without a teacher. Those parents have often been hit before. from a live wire or taught to avoid people. If those puppies have to find that out again, the chance of discomfort is much greater.”

Managing a wolf cannot be compared to managing other animals, says Jansman. “Management is mostly in the minds of many people. Foxes have a territory of one square kilometer, compared to the wolf of 200 square kilometers. Wild boars can increase in number by as much as 600 percent because of their enormous reproductive capacity without having a territorial area. If you shooting a wolf here, you’re going to shoot it for a very large area. It’s not proportional.”

Large animals in demand

Between 20 September and 2 October, nine large animals were attacked in Drenthe, possibly by a wolf. It concerns three heifers, two calves, two cows, a pony and a horse. Six animals did not survive the attack. At the same time, two sheep were attacked in Drenthe. DNA testing has not yet determined whether it is a wolf attack. According to Jansman, we still have a lot to learn when it comes to animal husbandry. “It makes a huge difference how you keep cows. A natural herd relationship has a lead cow with daughters, her calves and possibly an extra bull. It is much more resistant to predators than a well-bred cow type placed with peers,” explains he. from.

According to Jansman, the risk of wolf attacks on livestock is greater in Drenthe than in Veluwe. “We are dealing with a mixed cultural and natural area in Drenthe. On the Veluwe you have large, robust nature with four wild ungulates: red deer, fallow deer, wild boar and roe. The wolf finds so much natural food there that it actually does not have to in Brabant a wolf has settled in a fragmented nature reserve and then you see that the territory can be as much as 400 square kilometers in order to get enough wild prey. wolf against many domestic animals And purely out of convenience they want to test them anyway. Now you can too see in Drenthe. Our message from Wageningen is therefore: prevent wolves from learning that farm animals are easy food, and that means: protect, protect, protect. We see here that only a few sheep farmers do a good job of protection, and many sheep farmers are not yet.”

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