Red deer in Drenthe: 5 questions (and a bonus question about the wolf)

But what does the arrival of an extra red deer actually mean for our province? According to forest ranger Albert Henckel of Staatsbosbeheer, not that many, as there are now a total of two. “But the animal can help with grazing on heathlands, especially if it is a pack, and so may have a place in the ecosystem.”

However, he would like to mention that the animal can also cause some problems. “They can cause damage both in forests and on agricultural land.” A number of years ago a red deer was also found and that led to quite a discussion: should the animal stay or was it necessary to kill it. The red deer is explicitly mentioned in the Nature Vision of the province of Drenthe, which was adopted in 2022: ‘No zero position is used for spontaneous establishment.’

Research is important, because only wild deer that have found their way to Drenthe are allowed to stay according to the province’s rules. “The first red deer came to our province itself. But it sometimes happens that deer are released or have escaped from a deer park,” Henckel continues. “So they are not wild and should not stay.”

Does the arrival of the red deer in Drenthe still influence the wolf population? There is very little to say about that now. In theory, a red deer could be a tasty snack for the wolf, which also eats deer and small game, in addition to its preference for sheep. Wolf expert Hans Hasper: “Because there are currently only two red deer walking around in our province, the chance that this will lead to an increase in the wolf population is very small. Conversely, it has a major impact if the wolves catch a red deer “, then 50 percent of the red deer population in Drenthe will immediately be gone.”

Red deer are very shy and difficult for people to find. “But that is a lot easier for wolves,” says Hasper. “The red deer can smell them.” That does not mean that a red deer is easy prey for a wolf. “They can defend themselves well with the antlers. Then the wolves have a big problem. Then they prefer to go after the thousands of sheep in our province that are unprotected in a meadow.”