“Too many people dog-walking in the Sonian Forest”

The number of deer in the Sonian Forest outside Brussels is on the decrease.  Since 2008 the Sonian Foundation has been counting deer in the forest.  The figures show a sharp decline.  “Since 2008 we’ve noticed a halving of the numbers” says Koen van Muylem of the Institute for Nature and Forestry Research.  “It’s going the wrong way.”

Deer used to be one of the most common animals in the forest.  Koen van Muylem believes that numbers are in decline because too many people are walking in the forest.  “We’re still investigating why numbers are in decline, but our strong impression is that it’s due to the pressure of people taking their leisure in the wood.  More and more people are heading here for a walk and that’s having a negative impact.”

At first scientists thought numbers hadn’t declined, but the animals were just ‘hiding’.

“We thought we were seeing fewer deer because there are more bushes” says Koen “But we’ve changed our mind.  We think it’s due to walkers.  Many people bring their dog along and let it roam free.  It scares the deer.  Dogs can also kill fawns.”

“Boar have now also appeared in the forest, but they are not thought to be to blame.  They are small in number, so I don’t believe they are disturbing the deer”.

A possible solution could be restricting access to parts of the Sonian Forest and setting these areas aside for deer.  This is what the authorities are now going to try to reverse the downward trend.

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