Sound for Survival

Farmers face the same problem every year: How to mow the fields without harming any wildlife. Many have come up with creative ways to find creatures hidden in the tall grass. Dutch farmer Rien van Erp has found a new tool to save the lives of animals.

Deer like to lay their fawns in tall grass before heading of to hunt for food, while edgling birds and smaller wild animals like hares hide from foxes in fields. However, all are imperiled by the huge agricultural machinery used for spring mowing, as farmers are often unable to spot the creatures in the grass in time. Farmers in Germany and the Netherlands have tried using drones or hunting dogs to and any hidden animals before they start mowing. Others have tried using warning tape to scare them of to protect them from death or serious injury. Now, dairy farmers like Rien van Erp, from the Dutch town of Nuland, are using a rescue tool to protect animals while they are mowing. “The device makes a loud noise that frightens birds and wild animals away. That is how we protect nature,” he says. He is committed to animal welfare, whether or not he is legally obligated to do so. “That, too, is part of our work,” he says.

“I very much welcome the fact that this kind of nature conservation is being promoted, because it is necessary,”

Rien van Erp, Milchviehhalter

Essential helper

His Wildretter tool – which means game rescuer – is a small device that connects to the tractor’s battery. When the tractor starts up, the tool makes a loud, unpleasant noise that people can also hear. It scares o birds and small game such as rabbits and fawns, who flee. “Cutter blades have become much wider in recent decades and nowadays, tractors are way faster than in the past,” he says. That means animals have less of a chance to ee to safety in time. “Also, some animals aren’t scared away by the sound of the engine, or they don’t get scared any more. So for them, this device is a good tool,” says farmer Rien van Erp. He tried out the tool last summer. “I saw some rabbits jumping away,” he says. He was not sure whether they ran of due to the tractor or the tool he was using but this spring, the grass is even taller and there are more young animals about.

Animal protection

He knows many ways to track wild animals, such as starting mowing a eld from the inside and moving outwards. Another way is to mark nests. “Volunteers do this in our region,” says van Erp. “I announce when I’m going to mow, and they grab their binoculars to look for nests in the meadow and mark them with sticks.” Then he simply drives around the empty nests while he’s mowing. “I very much welcome the fact that this kind of nature conservation is being promoted, because it is necessary,” he says. “It’s somewhere we can all do our bit.”

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