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Want to see the ‘Big Five’, but don’t fancy an expensive trip to Africa? Fortunately you don’t need to visit a big game reserve in order to enjoy the best that nature has to offer… for even the Netherlands boasts its own exciting collection of wildlife that, with the right timing and a little bit of luck, can be witnessed up close and personal.
1. Edelhert (red deer)
The red deer is the largest wild animal in the Netherlands – its name probably comes from the Dutch word ‘edelman’ (noble man) as only noblemen were originally permitted to hunt them. Red deer are instantly recognisable by their majestic antlers, which can take on huge proportions, especially in older males. These beautiful beasts roam Dutch nature reserves including the Hoge Veluwe, the Oostvaardersplassen and the Weerterbos in Limburg, where they graze on leaves and grass. Red deer are notoriously shy and most visitors are rewarded with only a fleeting glimpse at sunrise or sunset.
2. Everzwijn (wild boar)
The wild boar was officially declared extinct in the Netherlands in 1826. However, thanks to Prince Hendrik, who introduced them back into the Dutch forests of the Koninklijke Houtvesterij Het Loo in 1907, this delightful species of pig has made a welcome return. To spot wild boar in their natural surroundings, visit the Hoge Veluwe or the forests of North Brabant and Limburg, where they ramble across wide open spaces, wallow in mud pools and feed greedily on tubers, roots, grass, fruits, nuts, insects, mice and young rabbits.
3. Ree (roe deer)
Whilst roe deer can be found in almost every Dutch forest, they’re extremely difficult to sight thanks to their effective camouflage and bashful nature. You’re most likely to observe these graceful creatures feeding on fresh leaves and grass, at dawn or dusk.
4. Das (badger)
Badgers live in the Hoge Veluwe and the forests of Limburg, Friesland, Drenthe and Overijssel and are predominantly active at dusk, when they come out to hunt for mice or forage in the soil for worms, fruit and nuts. Nocturnal animals, badgers remain curled up in their setts all day, making the probability of bumping into one in daylight quite small.
5. Vos (fox)
This sly thief, which isn’t exactly a favourite with Dutch farmers, is frequently found wandering the south and east of the Netherlands and across the sand dunes of Noord-Holland. Foxes hunt mainly at night, and in addition to mice, birds and wild rabbits, they enjoy a varied diet of insects and fruit.
Prefer to read this article in Dutch? Then why not visit to our sister blog, heimwee.info, specifically intended for Dutch emigrants abroad?