Saturday, 19 January 2013

Strange Animals in Denmark?

Okay so I admit, Denmark is a pretty uneventful place to live. There is a low crime rate, an uncorrupt law system and in terms of natural disasters the worst fear is a snowstorm. Even the largest predator is no more threatening than the fox and the only poisonous snake is only somewhat dangerous if you are old or sick. So what was the reaction in 1999 when a giant moose swam all the way from Sweden? Or more recently, when a wolf from Germany was spotted this November 2012?

Let’s start with the moose. Moose are tremendously powerful animals, females weighing 360-590 kilograms and males up to 725 kilograms, enabling them to travel over almost any terrain. They are the largest members of the deer family, which comes as no surprise considering their immense size of approximately 1.8 meters tall from feet to shoulders. Yet, despite their physical size and strength they have the ability to move almost as silently as a cat through a dense forest. So how did this incredible creature manage to make its way over an ocean? Moose are incredibly good swimmers and even though the sea dividing Sweden and Denmark only separates the countries by 4 kilometers, moose are able to swim up to 10 kilometers per hour. This is very impressive for a creature with such long, dangly, skinny legs and also a bit surprising considering their awkward and clumsy physical appearance. So the moose arrives in Denmark. Denmark being the Canada of Europe (as innovatively pointed out by the creators of ‘South Park’) had nothing else going on so this news took the tiny country by storm! Unfortunately it was not long lasting and the giant creature died tragically in a train accident, ending its short holiday in Denmark earlier than expected.

Now on to the wolf! For the first time in nearly 200 years, a wolf was found trotting around on Danish ground. Wolves have been given negative connotations since we were kids reading about the three little piglets and little red riding hood. They are infamous for tearing sheep apart, eating household pets, and in rare cases even for attacking humans. Therefore in countries where wolves live, there is often fear. However, it is important to realize that like other predators, wolves are fairly harmless to people and as long as there is a sufficient supply of wild animals, wolves will not risk human confrontation. In the same way that a lion will only attack a human if threatened, for instance. So the Danes had nothing to fear. Besides we are only talking about one wolf crossing the German border, not a whole pack.

In terms of feeding habits the creatures are highly adaptable to seasons and environmental changes. It is for example known that wolves in Canada feed on salmon only during autumn. Their dietary intake is also something that can alter quickly; they require less than two generations to become used to new conditions! So when the wolf was sadly found dead on November 16th, only a few weeks after its arrival, it was shocking to see it was heavily emaciated, weighing less than 35 kilograms. Obviously, there was no fear of the ‘Big Bad Wolf’ in this case.

Nope, I don't think so. Go back to haunting children's fairytales.

Evidently, Denmark is not the most welcoming country for the arrival of larger, more threatening Nordic animals. Maybe as time passes and environmental conditions change, these creatures will become more adaptable and moose and wolves can roam freely together in our backyards. But for now, let’s just continue to leave treats on our doorsteps for the fox.

You are welcome anytime!


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