Roy Mangersnes - Call of the “wild”


I am currently working on a book on wildlife close to town, and it brings me to reflect on the term “wildlife”. As an example I chose the Ring-necked Pheasant. It was brought to Europe from Asia over 1000 years ago as a domestic bird. Since then it has become a more or less natural part of the European avifauna. In Norway the pheasant is hunted for only two weeks of the year to maintain a stable population, and at the same time Wild Boar are being shot freely when they cross the border naturally from Sweden. In my country we have similar conservation dilemmas concerning the Mute Swan and Canada Goose; they were originally a domestic bird but is now colonizing and spreading across the country, and they are managed as part of our natural world. In central Europe I believe the list is even longer – not to mention the UK which almost only consists of introduced or at best re-introduced species. The question I would like to raise is; when does a domestic animal become wildlife? Can they become a wild animal at all? Should we let them considdering some have very damaging effects on local species. I believe the answers will be very different in the different countries, and I would love to hear your thoughts.

Location: Stavanger, Norway

Tags: plumage, Ring-necked Pheasant, roy mangersnes

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  1. Barney Wilczak said:

    02/06/2011 17:49

    Hi Roy. Salient points (and as always from this blog) a lovely image. Coming from the UK myself we certainly have our share of introduced and re introduced species although certainly not the majority! However, I am always interested in how introduced species can benefit habitats. In the Cotswolds where I live there are many estates managed for pheasant shooting. Although it isn't something I enjoy it has resulted in beautiful coppiced woodlands that are filled with wonderful wild flowers and countless other native species. Obviously there have been (and in some places still continue) associated problems, e.g. raptor persecution, but many of these woodlands would have been turned over to mono culture agriculture without the pheasant shoots . Although there are many cases of the bad effects of introduced species we do have to remember that certain species have directed our behaviour towards better conservation.

  2. Roy said:

    03/06/2011 15:30

    Thank you so much for your thoughts Barney. I know I was putting my head out when I mentioned the UK "wildlife", and I was hoping to provoke a reaction - thanks again :-)
    Interesting thoughts on the benefit of managing for game shooting. I have seen the same on the Scottish Grouse moors. My question, however, still stands. When does domestic animals become wildlife? In Norway almost all reindeer populations are related to domestic herds, including the Forelhogna population covered in the Wild Wonders of Europe project. The only pure wild reindeer herd in Norway is nowere near as approachable! Further toughts are welcomed!

  3. Dirk Pfuhl said:

    08/06/2011 16:29

    Hi Roy. To me your first question seems rather simple to answer: A domestic animal become wildlife when it succesful lives wild. Even a dog could be a wild animal if its able to survive without beeing feeded by humans. Most species needs a few generations to gain back all capabillities necessary for wildlife and this is imho the most important evolutionary bottleneck to get through. You pointed out some distinctiv examples yourself, another good one ist the american mustang.
    My answer to your second question - how to handle introduced species - is also clear: as a normal part of wildlife. For nature conservation in Germany I would say: you can't manage species, you can only manage habitats. And tehre are only two successful conservation concepts, national parcs and sustainable land use. We don't have much wilderness left in germany, so national parcs, even there are a few, are not really much without human impact. But only if this impact is as less as possible, wildlife will develope, regardless of the origin of plants and animals living there.
    Sustainable land use is the key to wildlife and nature conservation in germany. At least most of our wildlife is related to habitats formed by former agriculture. And industrial agriculture, and forestry, is mainly responsible for endangering and extinction. When you are working on wildlife close to town, you certainly will find out, that plants and animals will reconquer every possible habitat. We just have to let them.
    I made a little video on wildlife close to town myself. Unfortunately voice over is only in german, but the pictures should speak for themselfs.

  4. Roy said:

    10/06/2011 09:25

    Thank you for your thoughts Dirk. Interesting perspective. I have a follow-up question regarding the handling of introduced species. The reason I asked that question was that a lot of these are so called invasive species, having a negative influence on the local, natural fauna. American Mink is killing of seabird colonies every year in Norway. Also appearantly friendly species like Canada Goose, Mute Swane and Ruddy Duck can be extreemly agressive and have a negative impact on the natural wildlife. Should these be managed as local wildlife? Of course it would depend on the level of managment, and to be honest I prefer a natural world in balance without human management.
    Wildlife and nature close to town is a different world from the wilderness, but yes it is very intriguing.
    PS! great video!


  5. Dirk Pfuhl said:

    10/06/2011 16:38

    Thanks for your reply, Roy!
    Invaders are a common problem, also in germany, and also a sideeffect of globalization. It may sound depressive but there is nothing one can do against. So called invaders are species optimal adapted to the habitat they colonized while specific predators or parasites are missing. Best conditions for fast population growth an persistance! If they are predators as well, there will be a new dynamically balance between them and their preys population after some period of time. If the species compites just for the habitat, the better adapted species might displace its direct competitor completly. That's the way it goes in nature. And that's the destiny even of the invader itself somewhere in the future. What will you do against? Hunting, contraception, poison, fences, import another predator? There are many many examples of failed trials of invader-management, even think of rats or rabbits. As I said: you can't manage species.
    I fully understand your concerns about the natural wildlife, but in fact, invasions are absolutely normal in natural history. Nature never stands still, what we see is just one moment of evolution. Some thousand years ago wildlife in Europe was completly different from today, and will be again in the future. Invaders are a natural part of it.
    For our wildlife human impact is much more important as any invader. Wildlife habitat decrease every year. We have to manage our own population as well as our use of land and natural ressources. Compared to this, invaders are less important. Displaced species will find a ecological niche, if there is one. Increasing wildlife habitats, more nature-orientated land use and sustainable economy is the best way to help them.

  6. Roy said:

    10/06/2011 22:45

    I fully agree with you Dirk, however I have some problem accepting that what we see is evolution. If it is, it certainly is evolution on speed, and humans are the pusher ;-)

  7. Dirk Pfuhl said:

    11/06/2011 15:33

    Yes Roy, that's what we are - as a part of nature ourselfs. And the price we might have to pay at least, is the extiction of our own species.
    But back to the origional topic: when you are working on wildlife close to cities, perhabst you know the german photographer Florian Möllers. If not, here's the link:
    I'm very interested in this subject but more from the movie perspective. And I feel very honored, that you like my little and fast done video.

  8. Roy said:

    11/06/2011 21:53

    Yes I know Florians work. Very inspiring indeed, but still very different from what I do. I love the way he uses artificial light.