In 1813, a wolf was spotted in Denmark—it was the last to be seen for nearly 200 years. For decades, Danish hunters had pursued the wolves aggressively, causing the animals to disappear from the country's forests. But the wolf seems to be making a comeback. As Patrick Barkham reports for The Guardian, for the first time in 200 years, a fully fledged wolf pack has been sighted in Denmark.
Things first began looking up in 2012, when a male wolf was seen wandering through the Jutland peninsula. Other other males have been spotted since then, and now researchers have announced that there is a female among them, which means that the group can be classified as a pack.
DNA from two feces samples confirmed that Denmark’s newest wolf is indeed a female. The results also suggest that she traveled more than 300 miles from Germany, likely leaving her family group behind.
According to Isabelle Gerretsen of Newsweek, there are now at least five wolves in Denmark—the newly arrived female and four males—and researchers hope that there will soon be more. CCTV footage indicates that the female wolf has already found a mate.
"We expect that they will have cubs this year or the next," Peter Sunde, a senior researcher at Aarhus University told national broadcaster DR, the BBC reports. Experts will look to the pair’s hunting behavior for clues about when pups might arrive. Wolves breed in the spring; if the male hunts alone in May and June, the female is likely attending to babies.
Denmark’s wolf pack has settled in an area of farmed heathland and pine plantations, The Guardian’s Barkham reports. There is plenty of roe deer for them to eat there, which will help the wolves make a comeback in Denmark. “[T]here’s no reason wolves can’t thrive,” Guillaume Chapron, a researcher at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, told Barkham. “But the question has to be asked: are people going to accept the wolves?”
The animals’ sparse presence in Denmark has already created tensions. In February of this year, The Local reported that 21 sheep had been killed since the first wolf was spotted in the country in 2012. The Danish government has compensated farmers for the loss of the animals, and has established a plan to fund secure enclosures that will protect sheep from the wolves. But some farmers think the government has been too slow to act.
“It is as if the authorities were not prepared for the situation arising. It is tremendously unsatisfactory,” Henrik Bertelsen, who represents farmers on the Danish Wildlife Management Council’s wolf committee, told the Ritzau news agency, The Local reports.
Wolf populations can be managed “relatively easily” if proper measures are taken, Sunde told Barkham. Hopefully, the government’s plan to safeguard livestock will allow Denmark’s humans to co-exist peacefully with their new wildlife neighbors.