Return of large wildlife due to European hunting ban

Due to hunting bans, the establishment of natural habitats and a more productive agriculture, large mammals, which used to be on the verge of extinction, are returning in large numbers to Europe. Although several animal species have disappeared, some large mammals are making a remarkable return, writes Our World in Data.

According to researcher Hannah Ritchie, several species of large animals in the EU countries are making a spectacular comeback. For example, the European bison, brown bear and moose would once again thrive in European forests. 

The European bison nearly became extinct due to habitat loss and hunting. But a few dozen of them survived in captivity, before being released back into the wild by conservationists. In the Baltic states, western Russia and Ukraine, bison are now living again. In total there would be at least 2,500 pieces alive in Europe. That is at least 30 times more than in 1960.

Our World in Data bases its data on previous research by the Zoological Society of London, Birdlife International and Rewilding Europe. Those organizations examined how mammal numbers have changed since 1960. 18 species were examined.

In particular, the beaver population has recovered considerably. In the early 1960s, there were only 2,400 beavers; 330,000 today. Furthermore, in fifty years the number of brown bears has doubled, the number of moose has tripled and there are five times as many red deer. 

The researchers cite the cessation of hunting, the conservation of natural resources and the reduction of the acreage for agricultural crops as the main causes. European countries have been using less agricultural land in the past 50 years, allowing nature to gain ground.

It is also important to limit the hunt for large mammals, Ritchie thinks. For example, the bear population in Sweden is said to have recovered mainly after the government introduced a hunting quota for bears in 1981. Sweden also came up with financial incentives to boost the reproduction of the wolverine. 

Seal hunts are also banned across Europe, with the exception of Iceland and Norway, which could increase their numbers by 900 percent in 50 years. Today there are more than 165,000 seals in Europe. By 1960 there would have been only 16,500 of them.