We live in a time when the numbers, and distribution, of various, potentially damage-causing fauna are increasing significantly. These include various ungulate species, the wolf, as well as geese, beavers, badgers and several other species. Sometimes this involves growing populations of wild animals such as wild boar and deer, sometimes large herbivores such as Highland cattle that are brought in as part of nature management. It also involves previously extinct animals that have been reintroduced by humans -such as beaver and otter, or species that have returned to the Netherlands on their own, such as wolf, wildcat and golden jackal. This increase is hailed by many as a conservation success but also increasingly leads to tension between people and wildlife and to various forms of wildlife damage.
At the same time, our society is also changing. There is more polarization, including in discussions and debates around wildlife management. On the one hand, there is a strongly increasing call for a more nature-inclusive society in which wildlife is given more space. On the other hand, the pressure on the landscape is strongly intensifying from increased recreation to the need for space for energy and climate transition.
In this highly dynamic and changing landscape, current wildlife management is still often quite traditional and static.
Moreover, in a country as densely populated as the Netherlands, people and wildlife interact constantly, either knowingly or, more often, unknowingly. These behavioral interactions are a form of interspecies communication that current wildlife management often ignores by focusing on managing numbers.
All of this raises the following general question: how do we view the relationship between people and wildlife in our country? Do we continue as before and try to curb populations of returning wildlife? Or do we encourage and accept the current wildlife comeback and begin to shape our landscape and society accordingly through new forms of wildlife management? If so, what would such new forms look like focused on proactive co-management of human and wildlife behavior? How do we achieve fauna management that better fits the current strong changes in landscape and society and the desire for a more nature-inclusive society?
Photo header: Erwin Christis, RLKM