Wild Wolves Return to Germany
Until recently, the European gray wolf was thought to be extinct in most central European countries, but Deutsche Welle World reports that:
The mournful howling of wolves is echoing these days through the forested woodlands of eastern Germany for the first time in centuries.
“It is only a matter of time before wolves spread all across northern Germany in their move ever-westward,” said Josef Reichholf, a biology professor at the University of Munich.
“Northern Germany is the perfect habitat for the wolf,” Reichholf said. “Aside from two large cities, Berlin and Hamburg, the region is sparsely settled. There are vast areas of woodlands, lakes and dark forests.”
Northern Germany will be a turning point for the wolf population, he said.
“This is the region where we shall see whether the wolf spreads further westward and, if so, in what numbers,” he added.
The populations of other wild creatures including foxes, weasels, otters, raccoons and moose-elk are also on the rise in Germany. According to Reicholf:
Many of the smaller mammals, such as raccoons and foxes are encroaching on urban areas, and are bringing wolves in their wake. Reichholf said it is not the food that humans eat which interests foxes so much as the animal companions of humans — rats, mice, pigeons — and also the plentiful and often overflowing garbage that humans generate. Raccoons thrive on human garbage.
This does not mean that wolves will be moving into cities, however. He pointed out that wolves are shy creatures who avoid humans whenever possible.
Based on what I read in this article, the Germans seem to have a pragmatic approach to increasing wildlife populations. The head of the state hunting association was quoted as saying:
“Wolves are certainly welcome here as they enrich the local wildlife assortment,” he said. “Of course, if they become a pest, hunters will have to go after them to keep their population number in check as we do with red foxes.”
It’s refreshing to hear a story where human hunters are considered to be part of the natural ecosystem, and viewed as a healthy way to control animal populations (now let’s just hope they do it correctly by culling inferior animals instead of hunting for trophies…) According to the story, many Germans also appreciate the benefits of wild predators:
They decimate not only mice but also other small mammals and snakes and other egg thieves,” said Torsten Reinwald of the German Hunting Association.
“We actually get appeals from residents to kill more foxes, because they are eliminating too many predators in some nature wildlife preserves,” Reinwald said.
Health experts say the large canines are helpful in eliminating road kill and other cadavers which can pollute rivers and ponds.
Many of the wolves live in areas humans avoid. These include a region called the Spreewald (a former Russian military training area littered with corroded bombs and landmines) and an active military training area in Saxony. Ironically, these seem to be the safest places for them.
As populations increase, the goverment provides advice to those who raise livestock (primarily sheep) on how to limit losses to predation. Farmers who lose stock are compensated by the government.