By Alexandra Klausner
The wolves are back — and not everyone is howling with excitement.
For the first time in 140 years, wolves are populating in the Netherlands after being hunted out of the region as well as other European countries in the nineteenth century, researchers told the BBC.
People first reported spotting wolves in the Netherlands in 2015, and those numbers are increasing. Between November 2018 and January 2019, people reported seeing wolves four times.
Ecologists from FreeNature and Wolven have been tracking two female wolves in De Hoge Veluwe Park, collecting their prints as well as droppings for DNA samples in order to identify them.
“It’s like Tinder,” said ecologist Mirte Kruit, “It can say if it’s a male or female, are they single and looking for a mate and [tell you] about their family.”
At least one of the females being tracked stayed in the Netherlands for six months and is therefore considered an “established” resident. Scientists also spotted a male in the area, meaning that a wolf pack could pop up in the region in a few months.
Ecologist Hugh Jansman of Wageningen University told Dutch News that wolves would benefit the local ecosystem. He explained that there is an overpopulation of animals in the area due to a lack of predators.
“We shoot 50% of deer and 80% of boar to maintain a socially acceptable level. I think the wolves could do a lot of good,” he said
Park director Seger Emmanuel baron van Voorst tot Voorst disagreed with him.
“We are working hard on a daily basis to maintain the unique ecological balance of the park. There will be big consequences if we let the wolves in,” he told Dutch News.
Ecologist Roeland Vermeulen of Wolven in Nederland in Holland told the BBC that wolves are more likely to attack wild animals over sheep or goats, which the predators treat as “junk food.” Vermeulen believes the Netherlands could tolerate 22 packs of wolves consisting of five to eight wolves each.
The return of wolves to European countries is controversial — especially in France.
After being hunted out in France, wolves have been migrating back to the country from Italy since 1992, leading to some 12,000 reports of wolves attacking French sheep or goats. Farmers are eligible for compensation from the government if they install electric fences or get guard dogs, but many of them are upset about the damage wolves are causing to their flocks.
Due to a European agreement on wildlife, farmers are not permitted to shoot wolves.
Jeroen Piksen, a provincial deputy for the Netherlands’ Christian Democratic Appeal party, said he thinks that farmers in the Netherlands should be able to shoot wolves in “extreme cases.”