Česká verze

A year has just passed since the arrival of Wandelwolf - the wolf hero to the Netherlands

24.3.2016, Carnivores.cz

Large carnivores are not the typical inhabitants of all the European countries. They can be found mainly in areas which are sparsely or moderately inhabited. This means that until recently countries such as mostly flat and strongly fragmentised Belgium or the densely populated Netherlands belonged to the group of countries where large carnivores were not even temporarily found. Although the first "Dutch" wolf was found dead by the road in 2013, a detailed analysis found out that it was actually an animal which was most likely illegally killed in Eastern Europe and whose body was only taken to the Netherlands.

On top of that, these countries do not have experience concerning large carnivores unlike the countries in Central Europe. Majority of news in the media regarding large carnivores are positive; at the same time though, there is a concern that popularization of these topics could lead to illegal carnivore hunting as the nature in these areas is very easily accessible.

Thanks to that there is even more interest of the public in observing cases when a large carnivore appears somewhere. At the beginning of March 2015, a wolf was spotted not far away from a village called Bargerveen in the Netherlands. It probably crossed the border at night and it was most likely the same individual which was seen near the German city of Munster a day before that. The wolf kept going through the Dutch province of Drenthe, it often passed right through the city centre. The regional media launched a map which shows all the places where the animal was spotted (see below). The wolf got a name - Wandelwolf, which means "a wandering (or strolling) wolf". Some people wanted the animal to be shot, but most of the public reactions were positive. People went out to search for it and Party for the Animals, a Dutch political party, begged the public to leave the wolf alone as they feared for its life.

The wolf's journey went on from Drenthe to the northernmost province of Groningen. On 9th March 2015, Groningen announced a plan - they recommended putting the wolf to sleep so it would be possible to carry out a DNA analysis and give it the GPS navigation. However, this plan never succeeded and the wolf moved forward - on 10th March it appeared in Eeemshaven, the northernmost area of the Netherlands, which is a predominantly agricultural port. One day later, the wolf was already in Germany according to eyewitnesses.

Damages caused by the wolf were reported by Faundafoundation, which is responsible for compensation of damages on crop plants and cattle caused by wild animals in the Netherlands. More specifically, four sheep were attacked by the wolf, two of whom eventually died.

The map shows all the places where Wandelwolf was spotted

Sad ending

Unfortunately, this story does not have a happy ending. On 15th April 2015, the wolf was struck by a lorry on the A7 motorway in Germany, near the city of Berkof. The result of a DNA analysis confirmed that it was indeed the same individual which visited the Netherlands and it was also a young wolf from a wolf pack not far away from Munster.

At the beginning of this year the wolf's remains returned back to the Netherlands where Naturalis Biodiversity Center took over them.  At the same time, at the end of January Zweeloo, a Dutch village, announced that they would build a memorial for the wolf near the regional road leading to the forest. They hope that the memorial keeps vivid memories of this brave individual.

These days it has already been a year since the Dutch spotted the wolf. This story confirms, similarly to the story of Czechoslovakian lynx called Luba, that large carnivores are capable of moving dozens of kilometres over the course of a few days, in case of wolves even hundreds.

How many wolf packs does the Netherlands have space and suitable conditions for?

A 2012 research states there is potentially suitable area for as much as 14 wolf packs. This topic raises a discussion among wolf experts, biologists, researches and others. The most conservative numbers estimate that there is enough space for just one or two wolf packs in the whole country, while the most optimistic numbers state up to 40 packs.

„I think it's safe to say that there is enough space for 1-2 wolf packs in the region of Veluwe (see the circled area on the map), which is a natural area with a second generation of forests and heaths, a lot of small national parks and nature reserves and a bit of agriculture. There are a few villages and no towns, also a military area, thus popular places among German wolves. It is also the only area with lots of deer, fallow deer and boars. I personally assume that it is the only area which is suitable and also accessible to the wolves. Naturally, there are more locations which could be inhabited by a few individuals or a small pack, but it is not likely partially due to the distance from the Dutch-German border. Moreover there are a lot of obstacles such as highways, housing development, lakes and rivers." Job de Bruin from the Netherlands shares his personal view on the possible wolf „expansion". He also takes part in the monitoring of large carnivores on the Czech-Slovakian border together with Hnutí DUHA Olomouc (Friends of the Earth Czech Republic - Olomouc local group). He himself actively works in the field and maps various species in the Netherlands.

A jackal has appeared in the Netherlands

Photos of a golden jackal by the Veluwe heaths in the Netherlands were taken during this year's February as it was confirmed by the scientists of Wageningen University. This means that the jackal was thousands of kilometres far from his natural habitat and it remains unclear whether it crossed the border, someone set him free or it fled a ZOO. It can be usually found in North Africa, Middle East, North Asia and the Balkan countries, but lately it has been expanding across Europe. It was documented in Switzerland, in the Czech Republic, in the Baltic States, in Denmark and not far away from Frankfurt am Main in Germany. It is an omnivore; it hunts mainly small animals such as rabbits, reptiles or birds and it is only a little bit bigger than a fox.

The university has not revealed the concrete location of the jackal's appearance yet, but researches are now looking for fur or excrements. These signs would make it possible to carry out a genetic analysis and discover where the jackal comes from.

Author: Simona Horká

Translation from CZ article: Gabriela Kaletová


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