Have wolves returned to the northern stretches of France? New photographs that were taken in Normandy certainly seem to suggest so. If the experts' suspicions are correct, it indicates this majestic beast has returned to the northernmost regions of France for the first time in over a century.
Camera trap images of a large canine were snapped on the night of April 7 to 8 near the town of Londinières in the Seine-Maritime department of Normandy, one of France’s northernmost regions.
The images were sent over to the French Office for Biodiversity who concluded it’s likely a Eurasian wolf (Canis lupus lupus), a subspecies of gray wolf. However, they were hesitant to definitively confirm the sighting until they obtain physical evidence or higher quality images, noting the animal could just be a large dog.
Wolves are born wanderers, known to migrate across great distances over the course of years. In one instance, a female gray wolf was recorded embarking on a 14,000-kilometer (8,700-mile) journey between California and Oregon in the space of two years. So, while their presence in Normandy is most welcome, it's not totally unexpected.
“The 'hopping' colonization system is characteristic of the wolf. The new installation territory can be separated from the original pack by several tens or even hundreds of kilometers, leaving empty spaces which can be colonized thereafter,” the local authorities of Seine-Maritime said in a press release.
“In the fall, the young born in the spring take their full place in the group, forcing other individuals to leave the pack to seek a new territory to settle in. In the spring, subadults who cannot breed in packs leave their birthplace in search of a sexual partner,” they explained.
Wolves first returned to France in 1992 after crossing the border from Italy near the Alps in the south of the country. In more recent years, the species have been seen roaming further outside of the Alpine region throughout France, even as far as Somme. If the recent sighting is confirmed, it would be the first evidence of wolves in the northernmost region of Normandy in over 100 years.
In centuries gone by, wolves could be found across most of Europe, but years of overhunting eventually caught up with the species by the start of the 20th century and their natural range became limited to small pockets in Italy, Spain, and Eastern Europe. Much of mainland Europe has recently seen an incredible resurgence of wolves, with confirmed reports of sightings in Belgium, Germany, and a handful of other European nations.
However, their struggle continues. Despite their scarcity, there have been a number of instances where hunters have shot the wolves returning to parts of Europe. Back in 2018, photographers even managed to catch on film the moment hunters shot dead the only female of the first wolf pack to live in Denmark for 200 years.