Welfare of wild animals

No one may cause a wild animal to suffer unnecessarily. Some wild animals are protected by law and may not be hunted, caught or killed by humans.

Protection of wild animals

Wild animals are animals that are not domesticated. They usually live in a natural environment. Animals kept commercially or as pets are domesticated.

About 36,000 animal species are found in the wild in the Netherlands, 500 of which are protected by law. The protection of certain animals and plants is set out in the Flora and Fauna Act.

Nuisance from protected wildlife

Protected animals can cause nuisance and damage. For examples, pine martens may gnaw through electrical cables and flocks of geese near airfields can put the safety of aeroplanes at risk.

The following animals are a common source of nuisance:

  • geese
  • hares
  • rabbits
  • pine martens
  • bats
  • birds, especially wood pigeons, crows, jackdaws, seagulls and rooks
  • foxes.

Since these species are all protected by law, you may not take any measures to control them. Protected wildlife may only be driven off or killed by qualified people who have been granted an exemption under the Flora and Fauna Act. Ask your municipal authority for more information.

Protected animals can also cause damage to agricultural crops or trees. A business can apply for permission to drive off, catch or kill animals that are causing damage on their property. The Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO.nl) has information for businesses on dealing with nuisance or damage caused by protected animals.

Hunting wildlife

Hunting is bound by several rules. For example, hunting is only permitted at certain times of the year. Hunting is prohibited during hours of darkness. Hunters must have a valid hunting licence.

Hunters may only shoot:

  • wild duck
  • hare
  • pheasant
  • wood pigeon
  • rabbit.

Provincial authorities may allow hunters to take large game animals if they are causing serious nuisance. Large game is the collective name for:

  • red deer
  • roe deer
  • fallow deer
  • mouflon
  • wild boar.

Wild animals whose natural habitat is not the Netherlands

Some animals that now live in the wild in the Netherlands do not naturally belong here, like the rose-ringed parakeet. These non-native animals are called alien species. Some of them are a major threat to native plants and animals. They are called invasive alien species. The rules protecting wild animals also apply to alien species (including invasive species).

Return of wolves to the Netherlands

There is a possibility that the wolf may return to the Netherlands. In this country, wolves are protected by law. This means that any damage they cause is covered by the Wildlife Compensation Fund. If wolves do return to the Netherlands in the future, it will not be necessary to take immediate safety precautions. Wolves can remain unnoticed for long periods of time and tend to avoid humans.