For the first time in 200 years, a pack of wild wolves was living in Denmark. That was until a hunter shot dead the only known female last week.
The tragic event took place in the farming region of Jutland, and was caught entirely on camera, sparking outrage across the country at the seemingly senseless killing.
Two local wildlife photographers happened to be watching three of the wolves as they played and wandered across the fields, when a green vehicle pulled up and a man leaned out of the window. The two carried on filming, unaware that the person in the car had a gun until they heard the shot ring out, and watched in horror as the lone female wolf fell to the ground.
The car then drove off, leaving the photographers to call the police. Wolves had not been seen in Denmark since 1813. Then in 2012, four males turned up. It was only last year that hopes of a pack were born after a single female walked 500 kilometers (310 miles) from Germany and joined the males. That hope has been cut terribly short, as experts now fear that the chances of a viable pack in Denmark are unlikely.
Police have reportedly arrested a 66-year-old man on suspicion of illegally shooting the wolf, although he denies that this is the case. They will now carry out forensic tests on the man’s property, weapons, and car, as well as the site where the wolf was shot. The results are expected to come back in a few weeks’ time.
“He denies having killed the wolf, but does not wish to give the police any further information on the case,” a spokesman for the Danish police told The Guardian. “We have confiscated the man’s car, from which he allegedly fired his weapon, and a number of hunting weapons on the man’s residence.”
Danish websites are reporting that the wolf may have been crossing land that is owned by the former parliamentary candidate Steffen Troldtoft when it was shot dead. They are also suggesting that the man who has been arrested is actually a close family member of Troldtoft.
After centuries of persecution across Europe, wolves have been making a resounding comeback in recent years. Just recently, wolves were spotted for the first time in 200 years in Belgium, confirming they have now returned to every single country in continental Europe.
But while conservationists are celebrating this astonishing revival, farmers are less pleased. In Denmark, wolves had been accused of killing sheep, but the government has already set up a scheme to reimburse farmers. In this case, the female wolf was doing nothing wrong.
As one scientist put it: “I don’t think we have a problem wolf here but we certainly have a ‘problem hunter’ and such people need to be stopped.”