Within the last few months Denmark has seen a return of the wolf and the wild boar after a 200-year absence and according to Jens-Christian Svenning, a professor of bio-diversity at the University of Aarhus, it’s just the beginning.
“The lynx and the bear are both thriving in Europe and I don’t think that any of the big mammals are struggling at the moment,” Svenning told DR News.
One of the first new arrivals could be the moose, Svenning said. “Their population is growing in Germany. They are good swimmers and they are good travellers.”
A moose was recently spotted near Berlin and in 1999 a Swedish moose swam to Denmark across the Øresund.
In principle, bears could also live in Denmark. Bears, like other large European mammals, are able to survive in most conditions, and biologists say this is why many of them flourish despite human contact.
“We don’t hunt them to extinction like we used to and most of them, generally speaking, have strong abilities to spread, as we have seen with the wolf,” Svenning said.
Denmark is already home to European bison and wild horses, but those populations were intentionally released and inhabit confined areas.
Even though Denmark is a small country, Svenning reckoned that space won’t ultimately be an issue. He pointed out that European farmers, facing competition from abroad, abandon about a million hectares of unprofitable agricultural land each year. Left uncultivated, that land could become wildlife areas.
“It doesn’t happen as much in Denmark, but it does happen, and in the long term that could provide more space for the animals,” Svenning said.
While the return of the wolf and wild boar has been positively received by many scientists, not everyone is thrilled.
Pig farmers feel the wild boars are a threat to their business because they carry swine fever. Meanwhile, in February, a wolf was blamed for mauling a number of sheep in Jutland, awaking popular animosity towards the animals. According to the Danish Centre for Environment and Energy (DCE), however, those fears are groundless.
“As long as we make sure that the wolves remain shy and their population matches their food resources so they don’t need to seek out humans, then wolves can’t be considered dangerous to people,” Aksel Bo Madsen, a biologist with the DCE, wrote in an evaluation for the Environment Ministry.
DCE admitted that wolves have been known to attack humans, but indicated that the majority of them did so because they were infected with rabies.
Svenning is something of an optimist when it comes to animal migration. In March, he told MetroXpress newspaper that large mammals, such as elephants, rhinos and lions could all become a natural part of the Danish landscape.
“With creative management and some considerable nature reserves, like national parks, elephants could be a possibility,” he said. “I think there are fine opportunities available to obtain a richer and more diverse population of large animals in Denmark again.”