(ENDANGERED ANIMAL NEWS) GERMANY — Two wolves crossed over from Poland ten years ago and are reshaping the southeastern section of Germany with a growing population. Wolves have been absent from this rural area for 100 years, so their venture into the wilderness of Saxony was received with excitement. Named Sunny and One-Eye, the wolves are expanding their family while flourishing on an abandoned military reservation. The new packs are moving westward into the Alps and Vosges Mountains where other wolves have been sighted. Read on for how wolves are rediscovering Western Europe. — Global Animal
A wolf couple responsible for the growing population in Germany. Photo Credit: Wikipedia.com

advocacy.britannica.com, Gregory McNamee

 The wolf is beleaguered everywhere it roams, hunted and harassed largely for the threat it poses to livestock, if not for sport and out of mere habit. 

This is nowhere truer than in industrialized Western Europe, where wolf populations have largely disappeared except where, as in the case of rural southern Italy, they have been deliberately reintroduced, or where relic populations have survived in the highlands of the Pyrenees and Alps. But even in that densely populated region, where there is wilderness there are often wild creatures to suit it—and in the wild country of southeastern Germany, the wolf is now returning to habitat from which it has been absent for more than a hundred years.

This population of returning wolves crossed over from Poland—more specifically, the low but rugged Sudeten Mountain region where Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic meet—about ten years ago, entering the sparsely populated Oberlausitz section of the German state of Saxony. Large parts of that sandy moorland were used as a military reservation during the time of the German Democratic Republic and a divided Germany; even now, because so much of the land is not well suited to agriculture, it has not been cleared and hosts forests that are the perfect domain of Canis lupus.

It was on the site of one military training area, according to a recent series by the writer Rafaela von Bredow in the German newsweekly Der Spiegel, that the first pair of wolves crossed from Poland into Germany a decade ago. These two mated and produced a litter, including two females. These two, which biologists discovered and fitted with radio transmitter collars early on, have been extraordinarily productive breeders; as von Bredow writes, “Sunny and One-Eye will likely go down in history as the primordial mothers of Germany’s new wolf population.” And not just Germany: At least one of One-Eye’s offspring traveled as far east as Belarus, while others of the clan have fanned outward into Poland, Hungary, and other parts of Eastern Europe.

Pair the wide-ranging ways of the wolf with accidents of geography, and it is likely that members of the pack will move westward as well. The Harz Mountains, Germany’s highest and wildest range, lie roughly a hundred miles due west of the wolves’ German foothold; they provide a staging point, as it were, from the central uplands into the mountain country to the south and west, where highland corridors join to the Alps and the Vosges Mountains. There, according to recent reports, other wolves have been seen, including one that migrated northward from the Italian Alps before being hit by a car near Giessen, a city on the outskirts of the densely populated Frankfurt metropolitan area.

The wolves have other challenges to face besides automobiles. The environment minister of Saxony has declared that the wolves are subject to being hunted, if according to the stringent regulations that govern German sport hunting generally. The positive aspect of this is that hunters will necessarily be involved in the conservation of a sport species, involvement that has proved of benefit to “charismatic predator” species such as the lynx and grizzly bear in the United States; the negative aspect, of course, is that some wolves will be shot, as indeed seven wolves in the Oberlausitz were last year.

The government of Saxony has taken careful measures to protect the wolf, though, which is technically listed as a protected species under German and European Union law. As von Bredow notes, the state government’s management plan is so comprehensive that it has been adapted by other states, including Bavaria, where the wolf population is likely to flourish given proper conditions. For example, farmers who lose livestock to wolf predation are subject to compensation, while the government is providing subsidies to install electric fencing to separate prey from predator.

Some hunting groups, for all that, oppose efforts to improve the wolves’ lot. Some argue that attacks on humans, the stuff of Grimm fairy tales, are inevitable, even though, in the past as well as the present, feral dogs and not wolves have largely been responsible for such incidents. Opponents of the wolf accuse the government of Saxony and the national wildlife agency of deliberately under-counting the wolf in order to misrepresent how widespread the species really is, and it is true that the census figures vary widely from one report to another, with a count that ranges from about 60 to about 120.

Conservationists point out that wolves favor deer above any other prey, including domesticated livestock, and deer are so abundant in Germany that at least 400 packs can be supported there. In the main, the country’s citizenry seem content with this thought; in a survey conducted by the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation in 2009, two in three of those polled indicated approval of protecting wolf populations. Given that public support and government initiatives, there is every chance that the wolf will indeed find a welcome home in Germany.

More advocacy.britannica.com: http://advocacy.britannica.com/blog/advocacy/2012/01/the-wolf-returns-to-germany/

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