Ancient Romans believed that their great city owed its existence, at least in part, to a kindly she-wolf. According to myth, Romulus and Remus, who would go on to establish Rome, were suckled by a wolf after being left to die as infants.
Over the centuries, despite the animal’s symbolic significance, wolves were hunted to the brink of extinction in Italy. But recently, as Nick Squires reports for the Telegraph, two wolf pups were spotted near Rome for the first time in decades.
The babies were captured on camera at a nature reserve operated by the Italian League for the Protection of Birds, just outside the capital city. Footage shows the pups drinking from a watering hole and frolicking through undergrowth, according to the Telegraph.
“This is the first time in more than 100 years that wolves have been found living near Rome,” Alessia De Lorenzis, a professor of natural sciences who is monitoring the wolves, tells Squires. “We’re very pleased that they are back.”
According to Sarah Laskow of Atlas Obscura, the pups are the offspring of an adult male named Numas, who was first sighted in the area in 2014, and a female named Aurelia, who was seen alongside her mate in 2016.
The appearance of the little family is a promising sign of the wolf’s resurgence in Italy. Once considered pests, wolves were hunted in droves and eventually confined to a small area south of the Po River. By the 1970s, their numbers had plummeted to about 100 individuals. In 1971, the animals were given protected status and they have been regenerating slowly since then. As many as 2,000 individuals may now live in Italy, according to Squires.
But the road to recovery has not been entirely smooth. As wolf numbers have expanded, Italian farmers have been complaining of frequent attacks on their livestock. Some have even taken to publicly displaying the mutilated corpses of wolves as a form of protest.
Fortunately, when biologists analyzed the feces of the wolves near Rome, they didn’t find any traces of livestock. Instead, the pack seems to be subsisting exclusively on a diet of wild boar—which hopefully is a sign that Numas, Aurelia and their pups will continue to co-exist peacefully with their human counterparts.