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Wolves set up home in Dutch national park, opinions are divided

THE NETHERLANDS. Two female wolves have settled in the Hoge Veluwe nature reserve and a male is also thought to be roaming the area, according to woodland rangers.

The area has been designated as a habitat for wolves, meaning there is evidence that the creatures have been living in the area for at least six months. Since the first wolf to be seen in the Netherlands since the 19th century arrived in 2015, the numbers have increased rapidly – four were seen in the three months between November 2018 and January 2019.

Ecologist Hugh Jansman of Wageningen University was commissioned to investigate how many wolves were currently active in the province of Gelderland. After studying footprints, droppings and traces of blood he concluded in mid-March that two vixens had established themselves in the Kootwijk area.

Jansman said the return of the wolf could be a boon for the area, where a lack of natural predators has led the area to become overpopulated and prompted rangers to carry out mass culls. ‘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.

Not everyone has welcomed the wolves to the Dutch landscape. Last month BIJ12, the organisation that handles compensation for wolf-related incidents, said eight sheep had been killed by wolf bites at the end of February. Jeroen Piksen, a provincial deputy for the CDA in Overijssel, said authorities should be able to shoot wolves in ‘extreme cases’.

Ranger Leo Linnartz said the Netherlands was ‘an outstanding place’ for wolves to settle but called for local and national governments to draw up policies to protect livestock, such as electric fences and guard dogs to alert farmers to the presence of a wolf. ‘We’ve learned from Germany that wolves can be taught that catching sheep is pointless.’

However, the director of the national park, Seger Emmanuel baron van Voorst tot Voorst, is against letting wolves populate the area. ‘We are working hard on a daily basis to maintain the unique ecological balance of the park,’ he told EenVandaag. ‘There will be big consequences if we let the wolves in.’

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