The wolves are returning to Europe

Shutterstock.com/ Jim Cumming

Wolves are epic creatures that have roamed many continents for centuries. The wolf used to roam continental Europe in large numbers but has been hunted in many countries to extreme levels. This means that many areas that were once home to the wolf have not seen them in over a hundred years. That is until now, as it appears the wolves are returning.

The Netherlands had a high wolf population for centuries. However, as farmers started to take over more and more land the wolf was seen as a dangerous predator. Farmers started to hunt wolves to ensure the safety of their livestock and by 1869 all wolves in the country were extinct. Now 150 years later it appears that wolves are returning. 

For a number of years, wolves have started to be spotted in the Netherlands. It is believed that these wolves were crossing the border from Germany in search of food and were returning to their homes in Germany quickly. The first sighting of this kind happened in 2015. Since then the numbers have started to grow with eight spotted in 2018 alone. 

New data now suggests that three wolves have made the Netherlands their home. Two female wolves and one male wolf have remained in the Netherlands for over six months meaning that they can be counted as residents (if only applying for resident visas was so easy for people). This has made people (other than farmers) incredibly excited. The fact that both genders are present means that a new wolf pack may emerge within the next year. Animal conservationists are keeping an eye out for any swollen bellies over the next few months with fingers crossed that some babies will arrive soon.

The wolf population is growing in other parts of Europe as well. In Northern France, there have been no gray wolves for over 100 years but a security camera recently caught footage of one. This wolf is believed to have crossed over the Alps from Italy and would be an exciting development as well.

While it is fantastic to see the population of wolves starting to increase, not everyone is happy. If the wolves return to high population numbers it may present new issues for farmers in these areas. However, conservationists say that the fears can be mitigated and that it is time for wolves to be recognized as part of the ecosystem again.

150 years ago farmers did not have good security measures against predators like wolves, today there are many options. In other areas where wolves are present, they have erected six-foot-tall electric fences that successfully keep wolves at bay. Farmers can install infrared security cameras that can warn of any wolves nearby. 

Others say that wolves will not be an issue anyway. They can serve as a positive part of the food chain. They would generally pick off the weaker parts of a herd keeping the overall herd strong. 

Wolves are shy nocturnal animals and the majority of people now believe that they can coexist in an area with livestock if managed properly. While it is a new concern for farmers it is an exciting development for the wolf population in Europe. Once depleted in many parts of the continent it has taken a long time for their population to appear again. The impact of people on these farmlands has not just impacted the wolf population but the entire ecosystem. It is difficult to gauge exactly what damage was caused by removing the wolf population but new may return with the wolves. It has taken over 100 years but finally, the wolves are back.