Bring wolves back to Britain

This video is called Wolf pups (Canis lupus) – Wolf behavior.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

No need to cry wolf over its reintroduction to Britain

Friday 19th June 2015

By 1760, the wolf was hunted to extinction in Britain. However, there is today a compelling environmental argument for it to be brought back, says PETER FROST

When Theresa May accused the police of crying wolf she conveniently forgot that in the legend there really was a wolf.

The wolf is a majestic animal that once roamed throughout almost every corner of the globe.

As human settlements and hunters expanded into previously unpopulated areas, wolf populations were persecuted or even driven to extinction.

The English wolf — a subspecies of Canis lupus — once roamed and hunted throughout the British Isles. But it was hunted itself with the last animal being killed around 1590 and the last Scottish survivor some 200 years later.

By 1760, the wolf was completely extinct in Britain.

It first arrived in these Isles 10,000 to 12,000 years ago at the end of the Ice Age. Packs of wolves followed the migrating herds of deer, boar and grazing animals as they moved north when the ice receded.

A 6th-century Pictish carving of a wolf found in the Scottish highlands is the first real evidence of the animal in our islands. Skeletal remains prove that wolves lived throughout England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.

A male wolf can average 43–45kg (95–99lb) and females 36–38.5kg (79–85lb). Where winters are hard fur is long and bushy, and predominantly a mottled grey in colour but some can be pure white, red, or brown to black.

Accounts from a thousand years ago mention wolf hunting as a way to pay tribute to kings and nobles. Mary, Queen of Scots was just one royal among many who organised and participated in wolf hunts.

The wolf crops up in all sorts of legends. Romulus and Remus the twin sons of Mars, the god of War who founded Rome, were raised by a she wolf. Gelert in Wales was the heroic dog who defended a baby prince from a wolf and was killed in a cruel misunderstanding.

The Little Red Riding Hood story perhaps did most to give the wolf a bad name and, alongside a dozen more wolf legends, testifies to the long love and hate relationship between the wolf and human societies.

Canada’s best known environmental writer and life-long socialist Farley Mowat saw the wolf differently. His 1963 book Never Cry Wolf was an account of his positive experiences with wolves, the film of the same name was released in 1983.

Over the last half a century some bold ecologists and wildlife enthusiasts have suggested reintroducing the wolf to Britain. Our food chain lacks larger carnivores so animals like deer and wild boar have no natural predators.

Deer populations, both native and imported species, have rocketed and now the huge numbers are a real threat both to arable farmers and to ancient forests and traditional woodlands.

Deer have just one predator and that is the human shooter out for venison or simply to cull deer herd numbers.

Our English wolf was a closely related subspecies of the grey wolf, which is the most common species of wolf worldwide.

Now the pure bred English wolf is no more, reintroduction programmes would bring closely related wolves from mainland Europe, where the wolf is already making a comeback.

Scientists have established that re-introducing the wolf into the Scottish highlands could help control deer herds, and preserve the forest ecosystem from destruction as a result of deer overpopulation.

They also believe that small controlled wild wolf populations would cause very little disruption to farmed stock although a farmer compensation scheme would probably be needed.

Will they attack people? The wolf is one of the world’s best known and well researched animals. Although the fear of wolves is common the majority of recorded attacks on people have been attributed to animals suffering from rabies, so human attacks are most unlikely and easily controlled.

They are certainly not a convincing argument not to bring back the wolf.

The benefits for wildlife tourism would be enormous. Who wouldn’t travel to a remote Scottish mountain national park for the chance to see and even photograph these magnificent creatures?

Sadly our new Tory government is more likely to take the side of farmers and shooting syndicates as they have over the destruction of birds of prey.

Wolves would need careful management, but careful management is something we desperately need in many fields if we are to protect and enhance our landscape, flora and fauna.

Judging from her previous actions in the last government we are not likely to see anything like careful management from Liz Truss as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and her increasingly subservient team at Natural England and Defra.

Truss and her team have proved they are more likely to listen to grouse moor owners, pheasant shooting estates and even fox hunts than to any really concerned environmental organisation or individuals.

Sadly this time, I am not crying wolf.

International Wolf Center in Minnesota, USA

This video from Minnesota, USA says about itself:

International Wolf Center – Working for Wolves Accomplishments – 21 May 2015

The International Wolf Center advances the survival of wolf populations by teaching about wolves, their relationship to wildlands and the human role in their future. We would like to thank the Working for Wolves crew for all of their efforts this past weekend. We had great weather, an amazing crew of people and extremely tolerant wolves. It was a great weekend and we couldn’t accomplish our goals without the dedicated participants of this program.

Norwegian wolf poachers on trial

This video says about itself:

Wolf pups (Canis lupus) – Wolf behavior

30 May 2012

There were four adorable woulf pups, just one week old. The entire pack works together to care for those young pups.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Norwegian court to rule on six men accused of illegal wolf hunt

Landmark case pits survival of one of Europe’s smallest wolf populations against Norwegians’ cherished hunting rights

Elisabeth Ulven and Tone Sutterud in Oslo

Sunday 19 April 2015 15.33 BST

Six men charged over hunting some of Norway’s last wolves will learn their fate this week when a court rules on a landmark case that has gripped the country.

Illegal hunting of wolves is thought to be extensive in Norway, driving down population numbers to perilously low levels.

Now, for the first time, the authorities have prosecuted an alleged hunting team, charging the six men with environmental offences and organised crime, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 11 years.

“It’s such a serious offence that we were given almost unlimited investigative powers by the state attorney,” says Tarjei Istad, a prosecutor in the case.

The indictment includes attempted illegal hunting, firearms offences and organised crime. The prosecutor has asked for a five-year ban from hunting, which is something most Norwegians see as a birthright. The defendants are pleading not guilty.

All European countries except the UK and Ireland are believed to have a population of wolves, ranging from the largest in Spain, with an estimated 2,000 animals, to Norway, which has one of the smallest populations, with perhaps as few as 30. The grey wolf is listed by Cites as endangered regionally, though not globally.

“This is a question of attitude in certain hunting teams and communities,” said Istad, referring to audio surveillance of the suspects that revealed a lot of boasting about their hunts. He believes this court case is important to get the message across that Norway will not take illegal hunting lightly.

Petter Wabakken, an internationally acclaimed expert on wolves, agrees.

“Our research shows that half of all wolves felled in Norway were killed by poachers,” he said. “This is disturbing, especially considering that we have the smallest wolf population in Europe. Government policy has been to allow three breeding female wolves within an allocated area. This is not enough to sustain a healthy population.”

Norwegians are deeply divided over the management of wolves. Urban communities are generally positive about having large predators in their vicinity, while people in the countryside see them as much more of a threat.

Wolves tend to be targeted because of conflicts with human interests, such as competition for game, human safety and depredation of livestock.

“We can only conclude that poachers take the law into their own hands. It’s not licensed but illegal hunting that regulates the Norwegian wolf tribe,” Wabakken said.

Wolf in the Netherlands was wild German wolf

This Dutch video is about Wolven in Nederland. This organisation prepares for when wolves will come back to the Netherlands, trying to prevent human-wolf conflicts.

Translated from the Wolven in Nederland site:

The wolf which wandered in early March through Drenthe and Groningen provinces comes from a pack of wild wolves in Germany. It is a young animal from the “Munster” pack in the region of Hamburg-Bremen. This is shown by DNA analysis.

Early this month, the Netherlands was fascinated by a wolf of unknown origin, which for a few days ran through Drenthe and Groningen. The animal appeared regularly and behaved not exactly in a shy way. Research shows that it nevertheless was a wild wolf.

Wolf back in the Netherlands, after over two centuries

Wolf of Noord-Sleen, photographed from a car

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands today:

The wolf is back in the Netherlands, says the foundation Wolves in the Netherlands. This morning the animal was spotted and photographed near Noord-Sleen, in the province of Drenthe. According to wolves expert Leo Linnartz there is no doubt. “It’s the same wolf as the last days was seen near the border with Germany.”

German colleagues of Linnartz informed him in recent days that the wolf was on its way to the Netherlands. “It was no surprise that this morning we received the message that one was seen.”

Linnartz is sure that the photos he has seen are real. “There is no indication that the story is not true. It’s all very reliable,” he says.

See also here. And here. And here. And here.

This 5 March 2015 video shows a wolf in Germany, probably the same wolf as in Drenthe now.

This is another video of that wolf in Germany.

Interview with Jan van der Aa, maker of the Dutch wolf photos: here.

In 1772, the last wolf had been caught in this area in Drenthe.

Wolves helped by Syria-Israel conflict

This 2009 video says about itself:

The demilitarized zone that separates North and South Korea has become an accidental paradise for wildlife.

Bloody wars and other deplorable human conflicts usually have bad consequences for the environment and for wildlife. However, in some cases they may have unexpected positive side effects for wildlife. Like for wildlife in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. For leopards in minefields left from the Iran-Iraq war. For Nubian nightjars in minefields in the Israel-Jordan border area.

Or, sometimes, for wolves.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Living in a minefield: the wolves of the Golan Heights

In the Golan Heights, a dangerous minefield provides an unlikely wildlife reserve where wolves are thriving

Arian D Wallach, Churchill Fellow, Dingo for Biodiversity Project, Charles Darwin University, Australia

Friday 6 February 2015 11.51 GMT

Sitting in the cold of an open jeep, we are waiting for dawn. The thick snow provides some reflective light and we strain our eyes, hoping to catch a glimpse of the wolf pack as they return home from their night’s hunt. This family of wolves holds one of the safest territories a large predator could possibly hope for: a minefield in the Golan Heights, near the Israel-Syria border.

One step outside the barbed-wire fence, however, and the wolves must be very careful. Although wolves are provided with substantial legal protection from the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA) – enabling one of the greatest wolf recoveries in the world – they are hunted, culled and poached across the region. In an effort to appease ranchers who fear for their livestock while simultaneously conserving this growing wolf population, three management zones were delineated.

In the southern Golan Heights, ranchers can legally shoot wolves, and may even be rewarded with a generous bounty. Further north, wolves can also be hunted, but only by special permit issued by the INPA. Hunting wolves is forbidden inside national parks, and carries a heavy penalty, but poaching does occur occasionally, and can be difficult to enforce. Throughout the Golan, the INPA kills wolves, in a controversial effort to limit their population.

Itamar Yairi, a photographer who has been closely observing the Golan wolves for the past two years, witnessed the potentially dire consequences for those who venture out of the minefields.

The pack Itamar follows, led by a distinctly large and beautiful matriarch, chose to conceal their pups in a den just a few meters outside the minefield’s perimeter. “They were living like royalty, completely relaxed,” Itamar tells me. “Lying in the sun all day, playing and resting, watching over their pups, and then going out under the cover of darkness to hunt.” But one morning Itamar arrived to find a tragedy. The wolves were gone, and inside the pup’s den he found a box of meat laced with poison.

Poisoning wolves is strictly illegal in Israel, but occasionally it does happen, causing extensive deaths of wolves and other wildlife including jackals, foxes, wild boar and raptors. The death of wolves is bound to ripple through every facet of the Golan ecosystem, from the gazelles and wild boar that they hunt, and the jackals that they dominate, to the entire fabric of the remnant oak woodlands.

For several months Itamar could not find his wolf pack, but slowly, one by one, some of them reappeared: the matriarch and her mate and their two adult daughters returned, but their adult son is gone, and so are the pups. “I don’t want to know what happened to them,” he says.

Wolves live in extended family units, in which only one pair reproduces and the entire pack cooperate in raising and educating the young. They hunt together, patrol their territory together, and are deeply bonded to one another. Some wolves stay with their parents well into adulthood. It is these social ties that make wolves such powerful ecological players. It is the pack – not the individual wolf – that is the apex predator.

The loss of pack members is therefore a terrible blow, both to the wolves and the ecosystem. “They haven’t fully recovered from the loss,” Itamar tells me. “I only hope that they keep their next litter of pups deep inside the minefield.”

In 2010, 11-year-old Daniel Yuval was badly injured when he accidentally wandered into a snow-covered minefield, detonating a land mine during a family hike near the village of Merom Golan. Daniel lost his leg, and his sister sustained serious injuries. The incident sparked a global campaign to clear land mines, and the Israel Defence Force (IDF) responded by improving the visibility of warning signs and fence maintenance. Landmines remain common and deadly however, and in 2013, Roi Alphi, a Combat Engineering Corps soldier, was killed during an accident in an operation to clear anti-tank mines in the southern Golan.

The landmines and the tensely patrolled militarised zone make it a dangerous and forbidding place for humans, but a sanctuary for the wolves. “I have watched the wolves running towards the minefields, only to slow down to an easy trot when they pass the fence,” Itamar explains. “If the mines go, so will the wildlife.”

As the day breaks, the sun lights the massive fence running along the Israel-Syria border. Beyond the fence we watch the sleeping Syrian town of Quneitra. There is no sign of electricity, nor is there smoke rising from a chimney. I wonder how they warm their homes on this bitterly cold morning. We can hear occasional gunfire, but Amir Drori, jeep tour guide and local resident, tells me that this is a relatively quiet day. “Its too cold to fight. We have in a way gotten used to the sound of heavy gunfire and explosions from our neighbours on the other side of the fence.”

We did not see Itamar’s pack that morning, but we did find their tracks crossing in and out of the minefield a short distance away.