Will the moose ever return to the Netherlands?
In 2005, the Critical Forest Management Foundation indicated that in ten years’ time moose will be able to live in the Netherlands again. Although according to several foundations and experts it would be possible, the moose has never returned to the Netherlands since the year 1025. The moose is one of the largest deer species in the world and in most cases grows larger than a horse. Males usually reach a height of 2.2 meters and can reach a weight of 800 pounds. There are cases where a moose had a height of 2.4 meters. Females stay slightly smaller. A moose’s antlers are impressive: a two-meter wingspan is easily achieved. A moose needs space and tranquility. And can the Netherlands offer that? And even though that space is there, what consequences does a moose have for the ecosystem? In any case, Germany has had a fixed number of moose roaming around for some time now. They have successfully returned from Poland on their own.
The moose was found in the Netherlands
A hunting license from Drenthe is the last description of the presence of a moose, which has been walking around in the Netherlands until the year 1025. This means that the moose is officially extinct in the Netherlands in 1025. The many hunts for the gigantic animal caused the number of moose to drop drastically. Many other moose sought out different habitats. The oldest evidence of the presence of the imposing deer species in the Netherlands dates from the first centuries.
The moose: largest deer in the world
A bull moose reaches a maximum shoulder height of 2.4 meters and a length of three meters. The antlers with a wingspan of two meters weigh about twenty kilos. A female reaches a height of 1.8 meters and a length of up to 2.5 meters. Both the female and the male are gray-brown in color and have very long legs. This allows a moose to walk effortlessly through snow and walk reasonably far into the water. In fact, the moose is a great swimmer and swims faster than the average human. Sometimes it dives down to six meters to eat aquatic plants. His long legs ensure that he can reach a speed of 55 kilometers per hour, but it does not last long. A moose can travel up to eight hundred kilometers per year. Its long legs also serve as protection. He can deal significant damage to a wolf (the moose’s main enemy) with a kick. So strong and powerful the sense of smell and hearing is, so bad is the sight of the deer. A moose lives between 24-27 years old.
Distribution and habitat
In Europe, the European moose is found in the Czech Republic, Poland, Scandinavia, Russia and parts of East Germany. Other moose species are found in Mongolia, Alaska, Canada, and multiple states of the United States. The moose lives in coniferous forests and has a strong need for wetlands such as rivers, lakes or swamps.
Elk are social animals. They live in mixed herds in winter with the largest and adult female being the leader. In the so-called rutting season, however, the herd splits into several pairs. From that moment until winter, the group members do not (consciously) seek each other out. A female country is on average 235 days (7.5 months) pregnant and gives birth to one calf. There is a chance of twins later in life. The size and weight of an adult moose is how small the calves are. Only eleven to sixteen pounds at birth and not much bigger than an adult Labrador.
A moose does not just get a weight of eight hundred kilos. No, a moose is a big eater and diverse. It mostly eats shoots and twigs of fir trees. If it encounters willows or poplars, it prefers the bark. In summer, when all plants are in full bloom, it prefers to eat leaves, aquatic plants and herbs. In the fall, grains do well with moose. A moose eats about ten kilos a day on twigs alone.
Elk in Germany
The moose has successfully returned to itself in East Germany in 2017. The moose come from Poland and walk back and forth between coniferous forests in East Germany and Poland. Some no longer leave Germany but move between forests in Germany itself. Every year, the hunters’ association of Germany receives about twenty reports of spotted moose. A moose can walk eight hundred kilometers for a few years. In theory, this would mean that these deer could be in the Netherlands within a year. But experts doubt that.
Elk in the Netherlands
Ecosystems have so-called key types. A key species is a process or animal that, in its absence, has a major impact on the ecosystem. Its presence opens the door to new opportunities for nature, as it were. A moose belongs to the key species. Its large appetite means that dominant plants that are present in large numbers have less chance of reproduction. This gives other plant species a new chance. And these plant species, in turn, attract other and perhaps new animals and provide a greater degree of diversity. That is the only reason why nature lovers would want the moose to return to the Netherlands. But the conclusion is almost certain: the moose will never return to the Netherlands. And if it does, it will be gone as soon as it came. There are a number of reasons for this.
Elk love peace and quiet. Although they are social to each other and to other species, they just don’t want to be disturbed. It is known that there are too many wild boars and deer populations in the Veluwe. A moose would be? Crazy? of this overpopulation. Looking for another habitat is also impossible, because the Netherlands does not have that space.
A moose prefers to live in large, extensive coniferous forests and wetlands. Both are present in the Netherlands. Think of the (Hoge) Veluwe or Oostvaardersplassen. But then there is one problem. And that is the human being. Motorways run through forests or there are small villages on the edges of the forests. There are numerous cycling and hiking trails or viewpoints. The Netherlands is simply not vast enough for moose to live in the Netherlands. When a moose walks from Germany towards the Veluwe, it has to cross dozens, if not hundreds, of roads to actually reach the nature reserve. The chance of a collision is high. In Sweden, where the population density is less than 22 persons per square kilometer, there are thousands of collisions with moose every year. In 2007, nine people were killed in a collision with a moose. The Netherlands has a much more extensive and busier road network and a population density of 409 people per square kilometer.
Lack of food
In the Netherlands, the moose is said to lack food, especially in the winter months. The moose is not the only animal in the Netherlands that eats tree bark and leaves.
A moose actually has only a few natural enemies, including the wolf. Wolves travel with moose. No wonder that wolves are suddenly spotted in East Germany. Since 2013, several wolves have also been spotted in the Netherlands. This can mean two things: if the moose comes to the Netherlands, it stimulates wolves to travel to the Netherlands or the wolves do not. In the latter case, the moose would have no natural enemies in the Netherlands and thus lead a carefree life, although the first option is more obvious. The arrival of two new animal species at the same time has a major impact on Dutch nature. And a key species and a top hunter that is high in the food chain.
It is not only about the return of the moose that is speculated. Other animal species also seem to be returning to Western Europe and the Netherlands. For example, the wolf was seen between 2013 and 2016 in Drenthe, Groningen, Gelderland and Noord-Brabant. The golden jackal was first spotted in 2016 and the lynx has been seen several times in Limburg. The raccoon dog has already conquered the Netherlands and not everyone is happy with that. He is a carrier of several diseases. The bald eagle has been successfully breeding in the Netherlands for years. Does the Netherlands offer more opportunities for animals than is thought?