Nature is complete with large carnivores
Location: Istenmezeje – Hungary,
Story by: László Horváth
László Horváth, a hunter, lives in the North Hungarian Mountains. He perceives the presence of large carnivores in North Hungary as the sign of a healthy biodiversity. The Hungarian hunter community in general have not very much positive perception on large carnivores, but Mr Horváth says he is happy with the reappearance of large carnivores and does not consider them as competitors, but rather part of biodiversity. In his view, communication among different stakeholders is extremely important: avoid sensational information, rather talk about how to coexist with large carnivores.
In the hunter or wider society, the reappearance of large carnivores in Hungary is not necessarily considered as a positive phenomenon. There are hunters, however, who consider the return of these animals as an indicator of a healthy ecosystem.
László Horváth is a hunter who enjoys nature and forest life also for itself, he often hikes without the purpose of hunting.
„Hunting means a lot more to me than just putting food on the table and a trophy on the wall” he says.
He considers the return of large carnivores to the North Hungarian Mountains is kind of an honour that the region has such vivid and special nature that carnivores can find their home in it once again. Bears, wolves or lynxes don’t have natural enemies, only humans can take that role.
„We know they are here, so we have to be more cautious in the forest and in the same time also more respectful towards the carnivores.”
During dawn-time stalking he and his hunting mate noticed a noise that turned out to come from a bear. They were frightened at first, after all it was his first encounter, but they walked away calmly and nothing happened. They have been talking about this experience a lot since than and they are more aware of the fact that they might meet a bear anytime from then on.
Bears used to live in this region in the past and they have returned. It is important to know that these animals don’t consider humans as food or enemies, they simply don’t mind people.
László Horváth emphasizes the importance of the proper way of communication about carnivores and hunting. He says that it is important to talk about large carnivores and the fact that they are there and without making sensational news about them. He is against attracting people to go to the mountains purely to spot bears. But if someone meets a bear while hiking in the forest, his advice is simple: stay calm and simply walk away, don’t take a photo or chase the bear.
The aim of sustainable and ecological hunting is to provide a habitat and to maintain the populations not just for game species but also for animals previously considered as pests, like large carnivores. Today we know that these animals are not only indispensable for the ecosystem, but can aid wildlife management by selecting weak and sick individuals. Large carnivores could shift wildlife management to a more quality focused approach instead of quantity. Predators can help the renewal of forest vegetation through forcing prey species to move, disturbing or, in fact, preying upon them. Ultimately, this can have a positive, diversifying effect on the complete forest ecosystem. The ecological wildlife management takes a holistic approach during the everyday wildlife management and hunting activities.
László thinks that the public discussion on hunting and large carnivores needs improvement. It is important to talk about large carnivores to the public explaining the situation and stick to facts instead of making sensation.
“Just like everywhere else in the world, we can coexist with large carnivores in Hungary” summarises László Horváth.