Scientific project ‘Focus on dike diggers’ qualified for grant


The Professorship Animal behaviour, health and welfare of the VHL University of Applied Sciences (VHL) qualified for a grant by SIA-RAAK for the project ‘Dijkgravers in Beeld’ (focus on dike-diggers). The project gives us more insight in the behaviour of muskrats, coypu’s and beavers. This will reduce animal suffering because less animals will need to be exterminated and control measures will be better geared to the behaviour of the animals.

Within the next two years the Union of Water Board Districts, the water board districts Hunze en Aa’s, Drents-Overijsselse Delta and Zuiderzeeland, the knowledge institutes University of Amsterdam and Saxion Hogeschool, and the market parties Altenburg & Wymenga, SODAQ, International Wildlife Services and Sense for Innovation will all work together on research. 

Targeted detection

In the Netherlands, a country abounding in water, the digging in banks and dikes by muskrats, coypu’s and increasingly by beavers, causes serious safety hazards, economic damage and structural maintenance expenses. Catching the muskrats and coypu’s will still be necessary, but more insight in the behaviour of these animals will offer the opportunity to detect them better and quicker. At the end of the day this means that less catching devices will be needed, that there’s less chance of untargeted bycatch and less animals will have to be exterminated. With more understanding of the beavers’ behaviour and use of territory, it will be easier to detect the damages and it might even be possible to ‘direct’ them away from the embankments in order to prevent damage.

GPS transmitters

Transmitters with GPS-locations and behaviour sensors will be used to show the dike-diggers’ behaviour. The transmitters shall be read out with LoRaWAN. The strength of this research lies in the combination of science and practice, and letting students carry out the research. New technologies will be used in answer to the practical question of water board districts: how can we prevent digging damages in quays and banks by learning of the behaviour and use of territory of muskrats, coypu’s and beavers in the Netherlands?

Soon these new technologies can also be used for monitoring and studying other animals.