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Collecting butterflies to pooing: 5 offences you can be fined for in Denmark’s great outdoors

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The Local ([email protected])
Collecting butterflies to pooing: 5 offences you can be fined for in Denmark’s great outdoors
If you take deer antler home with you from the Danish wilds then you may be breaking the rules. File photo: John Randeris/Ritzau Scanpix

Denmark has an abundance of natural beauty and it is open for exploration, but you risk a fine if you overstep certain rules designed to protect the wild environment.

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State-owned forest and wild areas in Denmark are open to the public almost all year round, and 24 hours a day. They can be camped in, trekked or cycled through and really come into their own in the summer months when the temperatures are more welcoming and the days long.

The Danish Environmental Agency (Naturstyrelsen) promotes public use of natural areas by allowing as much access as possible, including to large groups.

Facilities in the wild like camping shelters and campfire sites are also common features of Danish parkland, although the latter are currently out of bounds in much of the country, with open fire bans in place due to drought.

Spending summers in the wild in Denmark can make for a fun and adventurous holiday - but it can also get more expensive that you reckoned with. That's because there are several activities that can result in costly penalties if you don’t follow rules set down to protect nature.

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Watch out for these things you can get fined for when hiking, biking, or just generally enjoying Denmark’s abundant nature.

Gathering butterflies

Are you a lepidopterist? Then you should take care which species of butterfly you capture and remove from Danish nature.

There are 66 species of butterfly native to areas under the protection of the Danish Environmental Agency, and 37 of these are “red listed”, meaning they are endangered or highly endangered. The red list of butterflies is updated regularly by Aarhus University’s biosciences department and can be found on the environmental agency’s website.

It is, of course, completely allowed to view all butterfly species and take photos of them, but Danish law means you can be reported to police for catching red-listed butterflies. That could result in a hefty fine – two collectors were hit with penalties of 10,000 and 12,000 kroner respectively in 2021.

Relieving yourself 

The Environmental Agency’s policy on doing either a number 1 or number 2 in the wild is that you should “first and foremost use a toilet”.

However, this is not an entirely black-and-white policy because in the words of the agency itself, “if you have to go, you have to go”.

The Environmental Agency advises doing your business “away from roads and paths” and to “find a place where trees and bushes can protect others from seeing you”. You may not leave any toilet paper behind.

Despite these apparently free-sounding guidelines, you could be fined 1,000 kroner or more for relieving yourself in the forest if you break laws related to public decency.

“It’s a concrete assessment, but you can get a fine for it,” a spokesperson from East Jutland Police told media TV2 Østjylland in 2021 after authorities in Aarhus put signposts up in local forest Riisskov asking patrons not to foul the area.

Just like peeing in the middle of a road, pooing in the forest can be considered indecent behaviour and can, in theory, net you a fine.

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Sex

Is it allowed to have sex in the wild in Denmark? The Nordic country might have liberal attitudes when it comes to nudity, but surely sex in public places – including wild nature areas – is limited by the country’s rules?

READ ALSO: Why are many Danes so comfortable with nudity?

The answer is, yes you can – with some limitations. The Danish Outdoor Council (Friluftsrådet), an NGO that promotes outdoor recreation, told TV2 Kosmopol two years ago that you should be aware of a couple of things if you and your partner are feeling frisky in the Danish fresh air.

“A good rule to remember is that you may not display inappropriate behaviour or be a nuisance to others. So it is a could idea to move away from the open areas in forests or on beaches,” Danish Outdoor Council senior consultant Anker Madsen said in a press statement at the time.

If someone else spots you – and is offended – you could be in breach of Denmark’s criminal code, specifically paragraph 232, Madsen explained.

Fines or even prison sentences can be given for falling foul of the paragraph which relates to public decency offences. However, the risk might not be as great as it sounds – police and courts always take individual cases on their own merits and may decide that the offended person could have avoided being offended by simply not looking and walking away, according to TV2 Kosmopol.

Littering

Littering wild parts of Denmark is, in short, forbidden. All your litter should be taken with you, the Environmental Agency states.

Wild animals like deer can cut themselves on metal left behind by visitors, birds can become entangled in plastic and litter buried under the earth can be dug up again.

As such, leaving litter behind is a danger to natural habitats.

READ ALSO: What do you do if you spot a wolf in the wild in Denmark?

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Picking up antlers

The rules around picking up antlers are more complex than you might imagine.

Denmark’s many deer parks (dyrehaver), located in or near towns and cities across the country, offer great opportunities to spot deer, making for a pleasant weekend walk or activity with children.

Every year between January and March, the deer shed their antlers. It’s actually permitted to pick up these antlers and take them home – unless you find them in a deer park, which probably accounts for the majority of situations in which you’d make such a find.

Nevertheless, if you are lucky enough to come across a set of antlers in a regular forest between January and March then you’re free to take it home. There is another condition to this, however – you can only keep the antlers for private use.

“The deer need all the peace they can get. But they don’t get that when there’s a hunt on for antlers,” the Environmental Agency explains.

“That applies to males, females and calves alike,” it states.

“If the animals are left in peace, all forest visitors get a better chance of enjoying the sight of the grazing deer,” it says.

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