By Nick Squires, Rome
An Italian environmental organisation has offered a reward of 24,000 euros (£21,000) for information leading to the arrest of the killers of wild wolves in Tuscany.
The corpses of two animals were strung up by the neck from a road sign outside the village of Radicofani in the picturesque Val d’Orcia, south of Siena.
The macabre display appears to have been a protest – possibly by a farmer or landowner – against the damage done by wolves to livestock.
The reward has been offered by the Italian Association for the Defence of Animals, which has set up a special telephone hotline for people to provide information.
The association says the money will be paid to “whoever can help to identify and convict those responsible for the killing and hanging of the wolves.”
Canis lupus was on the verge of extinction in Italy until 1971, when the species was given protected status. There are now an estimated 1,500-2,000 wolves roaming the Alps and the Apennine mountains.
It was recently revealed that a small pack of wolves is living just outside Rome, the first time the species has established a presence near the capital in more than a century.
Police and magistrates are investigating the killing of the wolves at Radicofani. “This is a very serious episode,” said Francesco Fabbrizzi, the mayor of the village. “There is a problem with wolves attacking flocks of sheep, but actions of this sort are certainly not the solution. We hope that the investigation will shed light on whoever committed such a barbarous act.”
Legambiente, a national environmental organisation, denounced the killing of the animals as “a cowardly act”, while WWF Italia said it was considering taking legal action against whoever shot the wolves, once they are identified.
It is not the first time that wolves have been shot and put on public display in Italy, allegedly by disgruntled farmers.
In April a wolf that had been shot and skinned was strung up from a road sign near the village of Suvereto, also in Tuscany. Giuliano Parodi, the mayor of the village, described the killing as “heinous”.
In January, the body of a wolf that had been decapitated was dumped on the side of a road near the medieval ridge-top town of Pitigliano, in southern Tuscany.
Farmers in some parts of the country say that attacks by wolves on their sheep are now so frequent that they are being driven out of business.