Science - March 13, 2010

Searching for friendlier ways to kill nuisance animals

The number of fallow deer in the Amsterdam Waterworks Dunes in the Bloemendaal municipality will increase to 3500 to 4000 within ten years unless counter measures are taken.

Currently, about 1200 of these deer live in this dune area. This was revealed by administrative officer Ingrid Storm of the Bloemendaal Municipality this week during a Studium General at Van Hall Larenstein in Leeuwarden. The key topic at the meeting was the possibility of getting rid of nuisance animals in an animal-friendly way. The meeting attracted 75 participants, many of whom are students of Animal Management.
Road accidents
Fallow deer already cause much damage and nuisance in Bloemendaal at present. They eat farm crops and often cause road accidents. There were five such accidents in 2007 and fifty in 2009. The municipality has put up mirrors to frighten and ward off the deer and is contemplating constructing a two kilometre long fence. However, a really kind and animal friendly solution is wanting.
Are natural ways to eradicate nuisance animals always more animal friendly? No, says animal nuisance expert Bastiaan Meerburg of Wageningen University. 'Whoever places an imprisoned house mouse in the outdoors has taken it out of its own world. That can lead to stress.' Imprisonment in a cage is also stressful. So is the presence of a cat. The mouse is often faced with a long struggle before dying. Moreover, using cats is not without its dangers, because they can spread harmful germs present in mice.
Birds of prey
A more animal friendly method is to use birds of prey, said Meerburg. These can be baited by placing bird boxes. When a bird of prey nestles in one of these, that becomes a preventive measure. Falcon keepers know this and use falcons, eagles and hawks to hunt and kill sparrows, gulls, rabbits, city doves, jackdaws and crows. Falconer Jan Pap stressed in Leeuwarden that the use of birds of prey is friendlier for the environment and ecologically responsible.
Safety
It is also necessary to get rid of the muskrat, another nuisance animal, asserted Niek Postma of Wetterskip Fryslân. The burrow which this rodent digs in wharves, embankments and dikes causes much damage, especially when it results in a collapse. Building stronger wharves or placing sheets to prevent burrowing are not effective enough, says Postma. 'The safety level of a dike dips by 90 percent if a muskrat digs a burrow in it.'
According to Harm Niesen, the Fauna Protection Foundation should spend 400 million euros not to combat muskrats - which it does annually in the Netherlands - but to repair and strengthen wharves instead. 'No research has ever been done to find out if eradication is effective.'

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