Wolves Return to Hunt in German Forests
John Hooper in Berlin
Saturday March 23, 2002
A pack of wolves has formed in Germany for the first time in 150 years –
the result of a heady mix of political and legal change, and the outcome
of a doomed relationship. Delegates to a conference held earlier this
month by the state authorities in Saxony were told that at least six
animals were now hunting together in forests close to the Polish border.
Gesa Kluth, a biologist who has been discreetly following the progress of
the wolves for several years, said her fellow Germans had reacted with
astonishment to the news.
“For most people, the idea that a pack of wolves is living free in such a
heavily industrialised, densely populated Western European country as
Germany … well, they just don’t get it together in their heads,” said Ms
Kluth, whose work is sponsored by the International Fund for Animal
The wolf occupies a uniquely sinister place in the German psyche. “I don’t
think there’s a single child in Germany who grows up without hearing
Little Red Riding Hood and the other Grimm tales that feature wolves. I
remember as a child that I, too, was afraid of wolves,” Ms Kluth said.
Yet growing environmental consciousness seems to have transformed public
attitudes. Ms Kluth said people living around the Muskauer heath, where
the pack has its home, were “relaxed and even proud”.
Very occasionally, individual male wolves have been entering Germany from
Poland since the second world war. But while some got as far as the
Lüneberg heath in northern Germany, most died in the formerly communist
Until 1990, when the laws of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) were
swept away at the time of reunification, its citizens were not just
allowed, but actually obliged, to kill any wolf they saw. Similar laws
existed in Poland and large numbers of wolves were shot in the period
immediately before they were revoked.
“We know that a female was shot in 1994 in the forest in Poland just over
the border from where the pack is living now,” Ms Kluth said. “My personal
belief is that the male who started it all was her mate and that he
escaped into Germany afterwards.”
When he was joined by a female is unknown. But in November 2000 they were
spotted by a forester with two young. He judged the young had been born
the previous spring. Since then, there has been a further litter of at