The number of large mammals in the Oostvaardersplassen nature reserve should be cut back even further and the area opened up more to visitors, a committee set up to look into the future of the reserve said on Wednesday.
More than half the 5,230 deer, ponies and cattle living on the reserve near Almere died this winter – most of which were shot by forestry commission staff because they were starving.
Now, the commission says, there needs to be a further cull of deer in particular to get numbers under control because the area can support no more than 1,500 large mammals. The commission was set up six months ago by Flevoland province, before this winter’s mass deaths.
The commission says the cattle population is stable and needs no further action, while some of the konik ponies should be moved elsewhere. The deer population, however, needs to be reduced by almost 1,000, the commission said.
Large mammals were introduced in the reserve in the 1980s and 1990s in what has proved to be a controversial move. Reserve wardens hoped that the deer and ponies would eat young shoots, keeping the area open so it will attract geese and other wetland birds.
In the original plan, the reserve was to be linked to the Veluwe region, but that was scrapped as part of budget cuts.
The province has been in charge of the reserve since 2016 and a majority of provincial councillors want to open the area up to tourism.