Putting out extra food to stop wild animals dying of starvation during hard winters is a short-term solution and culling them to reduce numbers permanently should be looked at, farm minister Henk Bleker told a tv show on Wednesday evening.
Last winter, farm minister Gerda Verburg agreed to provide extra food to help the wild cattle, horses and deer, which inhabit the Oostvaardersplassen nature reserve because of the continuing snow and ice. Extra feeding is currently banned by law
Some 3,000 large mammals live on the reserve and some 700 are thought to have died last winter. The reserve was only created on reclaimed land some 25 years ago and the ponies, cattle and deer were introduced in stages. There are no natural predators for larger animals.
The Dutch forestry commission Staatsbosbeheer, which runs the reserve, considers the animals to be part of the eco system and does not support extra feeding.
But last week, the Dutch vets association called for human intervention in the reserve to stop unnecessary suffering. A cull or giving animals birth control injections could be alternatives to extra food, the vets said.
A government committee is currently looking in to the issue and will make recommendations in a few weeks.
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