Science - November 26, 2015

‘Shooting is the only option’

Roelof Kleis

The province of North Holland wants to give permission for the shooting of over 2000 fallow deer in the dunes which supply Amsterdam’s mains water. The measure is meeting with resistance, but according to ecologist Loek Kuiters of Alterra, there is no other choice.

Why must so many animals die?

‘There are three reasons. The company which manages the area, Waternet, wants to prevent mass deaths in the winter. The area is open to the public so everyone will see dead animals lying around. Two years ago we calculated that in the given situation there is space to 600 to 700 animals. At present there are more than 3000 of them, and every year there are 800 more. Secondly, the large numbers of fallow deer cause problems in the neighbouring areas, which do not have room for so many fallow deer. Thirdly, the area comes under Natura 2000 and has been categorized as the priority habitat ‘grey dunes’. The objectives for such a habitat are jeopardized by all those fallow deer.


Where do all those deer come from, actually?

‘Around 1970 a few stags escaped from a local deer park. Later, a few females were illegally released. They found a very nice habitat in the dunes. For a long time it remained a small number: in the 1990s there were only 80 or 90 deer. At some point the population started growing. We don’t know why, exactly.’

Is there any other option than a cull?

‘It is too late for contraception or to move them. The numbers are simply too large. In this situation there is really no choice anymore. The arguments for intervening are legitimate, in my view. But shooting them will be quite a job. You will probably have to close off part of the area. You must go about it carefully to minimize the stress to the animals. Actually we still don’t know whether action will be taken in the short term. There is a lot of protest. Various groups have said they plan to object.’