Heideterrier Moritzburg | About Hunting under the Ground
Another passion of ours is predator game hunting. To this end, we use sitting game, humane trapping and the most effective way to hunt underground: we have 12 Mester Kunstbau in-ground that have contributed to increasing distance for two years. Thanks to this, in the 2014/15 hunting year, 87 predators were killed, and 84 in the 2015/16 hunting year.
Why is underground hunting such an effective means of species conservation?
To answer this question, one first has to ask if and when fox predation is a problem for species conservation. The fact that predation particularly poses a problem for ground-nesting birds has been shown by numerous studies with thermologgers, chick telemetry and nest monitoring via camera in various conservation projects throughout Europe. These studies also point to who is preyed on and when. Accordingly, foxes particularly prey on eggs, chicks and hatching females. What happens in the months of April, May and June also affects the impact that foxes have on ground-nesting birds. If we look at the biology of the fox more closely, this is not surprising, as this is the fox’s reproduction period. Investigations have shown that all vixens, but also males of the species living in the area, go about capturing at the time of breeding in spite of the needs of their babies. Male foxes, however, as they do not need to look after a nest, have a significantly smaller demand, as they prey only to support themselves. As a result, as predation is to be reduced by lowering the fox population, hunting must take place so that in the months of April, May and June, no nests will be available in the area. The goal, therefore, is a temporary regional reduction of population.
Now comes the question: can a reduction of the fox population take place through hunting, and if so, how?
To this end, one has to look at the behavior of the fox over the course of the year. In March and April, fox pups are born and kept in the den for only about four weeks. From the fourth week on, they leave the den. At ten to twelve weeks, they begin to follow their mother. Starting in mid-July, the pups are bitten by the vixen and have to seek out new territory. Until after the mating season in January, their territory shifts continuously in February. Starting in February, the pregnant vixen begins to seek out her fixed residence and even a nest.
What does this mean for hunting?
Hunting foxes in the summer and autumn has an influence on their growth and can affect the overall population density, but plays no significant role when it comes to reducing predation. Only hunting in late winter actually leads to the desired reduction of fox density in the area, since at that time the foxes are in a territorial phase and liberated territories are no longer occupied by migrant vixens involved in reproduction.
Now that it is now clear exactly when the hunting should occur, the question is, how?
To kill foxes with a rifle, good moonlight and/or snow are necessary during the foxes’ night activity. Suitable conditions last only a short period of time, over the course of just a few days, during which the hunter must also have time and inspiration. This is where sitting game comes into play, which, combined with the decoy, is a supplement but not a solution. One can achieve most of the humane trapping in confined areas, or areas of around 500 ha. Humane trapping means, however, 2-5 cases per 100 ha which must also be approved as suitable for fox trapping. 250-1000€ is the rough estimate per case, to which daily monitoring has to be added. Electronic trappers do reduce the amount of time and trouble on your part, but this costs about another 250€ per case. The immense costs and the time required eliminate the possibility of humane trapping in most areas. Underground hunting, on the other hand, costs very little and is minimally time consuming per area. During and after the mating season, foxes often stay in their nests and can be easily killed. The decisive factor, however, is that all nests, culverts, straw constructions and other fox shelters must also be regularly controlled, preferably weekly. In order for underground hunting to be effective, these controls must also be carried out by experienced hunting specialists with good dogs.
Source: Paul Rösler (Jagdhunde im Einsatz – Hunting Dogs in Action)