The use of the ‘Woeste Hoeve’ wildlife overpass by mammals
The Woeste Hoeve is a wildlife overpass in the Netherlands, built in 1988, to reconnect parts of the Veluwe nature reserve, which were separated by the A50 motorway. Wildlife overpasses cost a substantial amount of money, but apart from an evaluation one year after its construction, the use of the Woeste Hoeve has not been investigated. This study was performed to quantify the use of the Woeste Hoeve by large mammals. The fieldwork used track counts to record the number of passages across the Woeste Hoeve and compare these to passage rates on pathways in the adjacent nature area. To quantify the movement of animals across the wildlife overpass, the direction of the tracks and the distance to the edge of the overpass were recorded. In addition to these observations, pathway densities on the Woeste Hoeve and in the neighbouring nature area were recorded and compared. The Woeste Hoeve wildlife overpass is frequently used by wild boar (Sus scrofa), red deer (Cervus elaphus) and red fox (Vulpes vulpes), and to a lesser extent by roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), badger (Meles meles) and domestic cat (Felis catus). The overpass is used by species to the same degree as found in the first survey by Litjens (1991) in 1989, with the exception of fallow deer (Dama dama), which were not recorded in the present study. No preference for the middle section of the wildlife passage was detected. Red deer and wild boar have a significant preference for using pathways to cross the wildlife overpass. The density of pathways is higher on the Woeste Hoeve compared to the surrounding areas. This research confirms that a width of 50 m seems adequate for a wildlife overpass to be used by large herbivores on a regular basis.