Red deer, cattle to be culled again on nature reserve

Konink horses on the Oostvaardersplassen reserve. Photo:

The Dutch forestry commission has given the green light for the cull of 360 red deer and 45 Heck cattle in the Oostvaardersplassen nature reserve, in an effort to keep numbers at a manageable level.

A helicopter count revealed that the reserve between Almere and Lelystad has 860 deer, 345 cattle and 380 konink ponies but the commission says the maximum number of animals the area can sustain is lower, hence plans for the cull.

The 80 excess ponies will be either transported to another location or killed later, Omroep Flevoland said. In 2019, 50 ponies were sent to Belarus.

Last spring the forestry commission said no major cull would be necessary because animal numbers were under control.

Culling started in 2019 when 1,830 deer on the reserve were shot. More than half the 5,230 deer, ponies and cattle living on the reserve had died in the winter of 2018 – most of which were shot by forestry commission staff because they were starving.

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 would 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.

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