The Netherlands is home to wolves once again after a 140-year hiatus. While this might sound like good news, not everyone is happy with the resurgence.
At least 10 wolves, of which six are females, have been documented across numerous provinces in the Netherlands since the end of last year.
Researchers at Wageningen University have kept tabs on the movement of wolves in the country by tracking droppings and analyzing it for traces of wolf DNA. Since wolves use their poop as a communication tool to mark their territory, finding consistent patterns of wolf dropping is a pretty solid sign they are here to stay. Using this method, the team have shown how one of the females, a wolf catchily named “GW998F,” has established a territory around the forest-covered province of Veluwe for over six months now.
Odd wolf sightings have been recorded in the Netherlands since 2015, however, the prolonged presence of GW998F strongly suggests the wolves are no longer just roaming across the border, but their presence in the country is official.
The female originates from a pack found in Brandenburg, a 600-kilometer (372 miles) trek across the Dutch border in Germany. Even in Germany, wolves are a relatively new addition, first being spotted in the late 1990s after migrating from western Poland.
Similar stories of wolf population recovery are being seen across the continent. After being hunted to near-extinction in the 19th and 20th centuries, the Eurasian wolf has been recorded making a comeback in Germany, Denmark, and Austria, as well as many corners of southern and eastern Europe.
The reemergence of wolves was initially met with a cheery sense of optimism, however, the reality of their presence is starting to set in, following over 60 reports of damages to sheep linked to the wolves. Opinion is becoming divided, especially among livestock farmers, about whether the wolves are a blessing or a nuisance. "We are suffering from Little Red Riding Hood syndrome," Mark Zekhuis, a Dutch wolf expert and ecologist, told AVROTROS, in that many people don't understand the behavior of wolves, and so fall back on the negative associations they have.
In fact, there have already been reports of farmers resorting to shooting the wolves, despite them being a protected species in many European nations, AVROTROS reports.
Back in January, 12 Dutch provinces adopted the “interprovincial wolf plan,” which will allow farmers to receive compensation for any damage caused by the wolves and encourage them to take more preventive measures, such as electric fences and guard dogs.
Nevertheless, while they certainly introduce new challenges, wildlife experts and ecologists are confident that the wolves' presence should be celebrated with cautious optimism and not met by hysteria.