Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Wolves in Germany

For decades, wolves were thought to be completely extinct in Germany. Some people were happy about that, others were not. Now the wolves are back.

Over the last couple of years, the wolves have come back to Germany from Eastern Europe, mostly Poland and the Czech Republic. Therefore, the eastern areas of Germany have been the first where the wolves took residence. Currently, there’s a couple of packs and with every new generation of wolves born, the borders are pushed further west. Young wolves leave the pack they were born in behind and try to find (or found) a new one, a little away.

Biologists and green activists are very happy about this (I am, too, I like the idea of wolves back in the woods), because it shows nature is slowly regenerating and things are going back to ‘normal’. Hunters are not, because the number of deer they’re allowed to shoot is decreasing when wolves, too, hunt the herds. In Germany, the main reason for hunting is not just ‘killing animals’, it’s protecting the woods and balancing nature. Wolves are a natural balance, keeping the deer populations (and that of various other animals) at bay. That’s good for the forest, because deer feast on young trees, stumping their growth and even destroying them.

Over the last couple of years, as the wolves came back, especially one German tabloid (Bild-Zeitung) has done everything possible to raise the fear of those creatures. Every time one wolf is doing anything noticeable (like, for instance, kill one sheep), the tabloid is on to it, talking about the danger, showing aggressive wolves (sometimes even photoshopped, with green eyes, for example) and basically saying ‘humans will be next’.

That’s stupid for various reasons. First of all, humans are not exactly normal prey for wolves. They fear our scent and they are not really seeing us as something yummy to eat. (Besides, compared to a sheep or a deer, humans are poor sustenance.) In addition, there’s not all that many wolves around and they mostly hunt at night. They’re not coming into the cities right now (unlike foxes or wild boars), so the chances of actually meeting a wolf is next to non-existent (there’s always a slight one, of course). (And even if you should meet one, it’ll probably run away…)

While quite some hunters see the wolves as something positive (balancing deer much better, because they only go for the weak ones), others would prefer to do all the killing themselves and thus would really like to kill the wolves, too. But as wolves are on the list of rare and protected animals, that’s not allowed. You can, probably, imagine the discussions going on.

Wolves are back in Germany and that’s great news. We have at least some predators back in our woods (lynx and wild cat, too). Maybe even bears will one day be back (not just one, but a small population). Things are looking up for nature in Germany.


Alan said...

Great news. From the fairy tales told to many British children it was the dark forest and the wolf that personified the very essence of how we imagined Germany. Born in 1937 it was a Germany on my map that stretched from Belgium to the Russian Border. Now let's see the bear back in the German forests.

Cay Reet said...

As a matter of fact, there has at least one bear been seen in Germany - in the eastern area of Bavaria. May others follow.