Wolves are migrating from Germany and edging closer to the Netherlands, so we need to be ready to deal with them. It seems that we have forgotten how to relate to large predators, so two researchers at Alterra Wageningen UR have been asked to draft a ‘Wolf Plan’ at the request of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Association of Provinces of the Netherlands and the Faunafonds (fauna fund).
A wolf in Luttelgeest?
In July 2013, it looked as if the compilers of the Wolf Plan might have been overtaken by events, when an animal strongly resembling a wolf was apparently hit and killed by a car near the town of Luttelgeest in the North East Polder. It would be a very remarkable discovery for a wolf to be found in the Netherlands because the last sighting of a wolf in the Netherlands was in 1869. ‘But it would hardly be a surprise,’ says Dennis Lammertsma, who is working on the plan with Geert Groot Bruinderink. ‘Only last year a wolf was filmed in Meppen in Germany, close to the border with the Netherlands.’ The prospect of a wolf being found in the North East Polder, quite a distance from the border, would not surprise him either: ‘Wolves can walk a few dozen kilometres in a day.’
Geert Groot Bruinderink explains why a Wolf Plan is being developed in association with conservation organisations, agricultural organisations and the government: ‘We’re no longer used to large predators in the Netherlands.’ So information plays a key role in the Wolf Plan. Ramblers, cyclists and equestrians as well as livestock breeders, pet owners, hunters and conservationists need to be taught what to do if wolves are in the vicinity.
Learning to live with wolves
Wolves can create problems now and then, especially for sheep farmers. But who should deal with them? And who pays the compensation, not just if a farmer loses a sheep, but if tourists stay away from a region because they are scared? What about possible diseases that can be spread by wolves? Government agencies and at least twenty organisations are joining forces with Alterra researchers to come up with answers to such questions. The outcome will be published before the end of the year in the draft Wolf Plan compiled by Groot Bruinderink and Lammertsma. The politicians will use the plan to take decisions and draw up legislation.