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Origin unclear: Mouflons have settled near Scheuren
The herd first appeared in the area about three years ago, reports forester Markus Wunsch. And since then the animals have been very loyal to their home. “It's an extremely rare thing,” he says. Wunsch suspects that the animals come from the national park. There have always been herds of mouflons there. But because the park is so big, you often don't see it for years.
Observing atypical behavior
Florian Krumpen sees it a little differently. He is responsible for biotope and wildlife management at the National Park Forest Office. Mouflons are usually very faithful to their location. They rarely crossed major roads or waterways. But they would have to have done that if the mouflons in Scheuren were national park animals. Another aspect that made him doubt the origin of the animals is the report of a shepherd. Last autumn, a mouflon ram is said to have joined a flock of sheep on the Dreiborn plateau for weeks and even moved with her. That is absolutely atypical behavior, says Krumpen.
Förster Wunsch is certain that he is dealing with wild animals. "They are used to looking after themselves." That is why Wunsch urges the population to be considerate. He could understand that curious people wanted to see the animals up close, but mouflons were very sensitive to alarm. If the herd feels threatened, the ram will often sprint towards the onlookers, then stop abruptly and literally stand up in front of them. Since the animals are relatively small, this often leads to amusement in people, says Wunsch. But it is a clear warning sign. Then take out the herd.
Foresters want to keep watching the animals
However, this behavior is not known to crook in mouflon rams. That only reinforces his impression that the Scheurener herd is not wild animals, he says. These usually ran away immediately when they saw people.
The Scheurener mouflons showed some escape behavior, says Wunsch. That is why it is important to him that the animals are left alone. If the herd feels disturbed too often, it can migrate entirely. He prefers to know where the animals are: Then he can observe whether they fit into the ecosystem, says the forester. The herd has a kind of action space - an area of around 15 hectares where the animals spend most of the time. This spring there were also offspring. Wunsch cannot say exactly how many animals there are. He certainly knows of at least four old and two young animals.
According to the Nature Conservation Union, mouflons originally come from Sardinia, Corsica and Cyprus. Around 1900 the animal was also settled in Germany for hunting reasons, including in the Eifel. The animals are therefore not native here.
Almost ten years ago, some mouflons kept the Schleiden police on their toes. In the summer of 2012, animals kept appearing in Gemünd, Olef and Herhahn. Because the animals were considered to be a danger to road traffic, four of them were caught and brought to the Rhineland Wildlife Park in Kommern. A mouflon ram, which was also to be caught, fled after the shot from the tranquilizer rifle and later drowned in the olef. (jre)
When the animals appeared for the first time, he had discussed it with the hunting tenant. The question was whether to shoot the mouflons or not. They initially decided against it, says Wunsch: “You have to see whether they fit into the ecology of the forest.” So far there have been no problems, but that remains to be seen. It is not primarily about wanting to relocate the animals, but about protecting them. After all, they are wild animals.
The animals are released for hunting in the national park
It looks different in the national park. There was already a decision in 2006 to shoot the mouflons out of the park. At that time around 200 animals lived there. To this day, nothing has changed in the shooting plan, says Krumpen. The reason: "It is a naturalized, alien species that does not belong in the ecosystem." The philosophy and goal of the national park are to restore an ecosystem that is as original as possible. "The mouflon does not belong in there, any more than the Douglas fir," says Krumpen. However, since the animals are not that easy to hunt, there are still mouflons in the park. Sooner or later, however, the population will dissolve, also due to natural predators such as the wolf, says Krumpen.
In principle, the national park therefore has no interest in a mouflon population forming on the edge of the park. He therefore wants to get an idea of the mouflons at Scheuren himself soon. “Of course we ask ourselves: where do mouflons come from where there weren't any before?” He reports.
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