The wolf has an image problem: it scares people. However, large predators like wolves play an important role in the ecosystem. We have answers to the important questions.
Is the wolf even useful for anything?
Yes, because large carnivores are important for ecological balance
A Russian proverb says that where the wolf hunts, the forest grows. The calculation behind it: Wolves regulate the game population. This means that deer and red deer eat fewer young shoots – and the forest can rejuvenate.
Wolves mainly kill and hunt old, sick and weak animals that are easy prey. Or young animals. Wolves prefer to hunt newborns than to mess with defensive wild boars, according to a food analysis by the Senckenberg Institute for Natural History in England.
Even when they hunt deer, the wolves are more likely to grab young and old animals. The main production carriers, on the other hand, are eaten much less often. The wild population thus remains in equilibrium.
The influence of the wolf on the forest goes even further: if the pack has killed a prey, the wolves eat their fill and leave the carcass lying there. Now the carrion recyclers are approaching.
A photo trap in the forest proved that, in addition to insects such as the carrion beetle, sea eagles and hawks are also interested in the wolf tear. Some beetles work the remains of the dead animal into the ground, others pick up carrion and fly on. What is left over is broken down by microorganisms such as fungi and bacteria – what remains is nutrient-rich soil.
How much the wolf currently contributes to the ecological balance of the forest has not been conclusively clarified.
Wolf and Human – Enemies?
The interactions between large carnivores, large herbivores and the forest are complex and multi-layered. And the human impact on the ecological balance is great due to factors such as forestry, hunting and urban sprawl.
“If humans did not have such a great influence, the wolf could have a very balancing effect on the ecosystem”. “But the roe deer and red deer hunting routes currently show that the numbers have not yet decreased due to wolves.”
Most of the scientific work that deals with the ecological influences of wolves comes from near-natural ecosystems and therefore cannot simply be transferred to Central Europe.
Often the areas examined are large protected areas, where human influence plays only a minor role. The extent to which humans influence the interaction between carnivores, herbivores and the ecosystem in cultivated landscapes therefore needs to be further investigated.
Wolves are at the top of the food pyramid, they have no natural predators. As long as they find enough prey and are spared disease, they could spread unhindered.
That would be generally good for the species: According to the Fauna-Flora-Habitat Directive, the conservation status of wolves is still rated as “unfavorable-bad”. In other words: there is still room for more wolves.
Is the wolf dangerous to humans?
An encounter with a wolf is very unlikely, because wolves prefer to avoid us. If a wolf does appear in sight, it is first of all a stroke of luck and no need to panic: “The best thing is to take out the cell phone and film and enjoy the moment.”
Anyone who feels uncomfortable around a wolf should withdraw slowly – not run away hectically. Or drive the animal away with noise, so shout out loud and clap your hands. In case of doubt, the wolf will even leave its prey or the pups behind and flee. Important: do not follow the animal, do not frighten it or corner it.
Please do not feed!
Wolves usually avoid us, but they can still walk through villages at dusk or at night. Because wherever we are, there is food, for example on illegal rubbish dumps.
When wolves are fed by humans, intentionally or unintentionally, it can become dangerous. Especially for the wolf. Because the animals lose their shyness and become unpredictable. For the wolf with the sonorous name MT6, this behavior was fatal. He had always approached people, especially dog owners on the walk. An incalculable danger: MT6 therefore had to be shot down.
Puppies too trusting sometimes
Wolves in particular, which are fed by humans when they are puppies, can be dangerous. “Wolf pups are like toddlers. You are curious and first have to get to know the dangers in life. This sometimes means that you can sometimes follow a person out of curiosity ”. The problem with this is that it is not easy for laypeople to distinguish between wolf pups and adult wolves. Because at four months the animals are already quite big, but still playful.
Dogs in particular are of interest to wolves: either as a social partner or as a competitor. Both could be problematic, so dogs should be kept on a leash and only run freely in designated free-range areas. Because an encounter between dog and wolf can end very unpleasant for both sides.
There have been no attacks on people so far
There has not been a confirmed attack on humans since the wolves returned home. But one thing is clear: wild boars are probably the greater danger: people are repeatedly injured or killed by black smock attacks.
Nevertheless, there have been isolated wolf attacks in recent years, for example in America and Canada. The wolf has also attacked people in Europe in the past: in the 1950s and 1970s, four children were killed in attacks in Spain and four were injured.
Are humans dangerous to wolves?
At the moment, humans determine the upper limit of the wolves, not nature. Most wolves die from cars and illegal shooting.
In 2018, twice as many wolves were illegally shot worldwide than in previous years. For comparison: in natural systems like Yellowstone National Park, most wolves die from conflicts with other packs.
The wolf is one of the strictly protected animal species in many countries. Whoever deliberately shoots a wolf is committing a crime. The consequences range from a fine to a prison sentence of up to five years.
Anyone who accidentally kills a wolf can end up in prison. The law provides for a prison sentence of up to six months. But the deterrent seems to be limited – in 2018 a total of 1,000 wolves were illegally killed.
Nevertheless, one should always keep in mind that a wolf is an important animal for the ecosystem. The wolf helps nature to keep your balance. Humans should not intervene there, nor should there be any hunted wolves, as wolves are very useful animals and do not pose a threat to humans!
Does the wolf cause damage too?
Wolves do not distinguish between farm animals and wild species – both fall under the prey category. Sheep and goats are comparatively easy to kill for the wolf, especially when they are unprotected in the pasture in the dark.
Wolf attacks are therefore a serious problem for farmers and shepherds, because for them every dead or injured animal also means economic damage. How high it is depends, among other things, on the slaughter and breeding value.
The number of animals killed increases sharply
In 2016, the federal states reported 1,079 animals that were killed, injured or missing by wolves. In 2017 there were a total of 1,667 animals, most of them sheep (1,366).
Cattle or horses are rarely attacked by wolves – no wonder, they are quite defensive. Between 2002 and 2016, a total of 3,455 animals were attacked or killed by wolves. The proportion of sheep among animal victims: over 85 percent.
It is often not clear whether it really was the wolf
These figures relate to the reports from the federal states that are received by the “Federal Documentation and Advice Center on Wolf”. However, it differs depending on the federal state how reliably the attacks can actually be assigned to wolves. So it is not necessarily said that the wolf is responsible for all sheep killed, injured, or missing. Causes of death can also be poaching dogs, foxes or diseases.
And: Most of the attacks reported are concentrated in rural areas. In most regions, for example, only one attack on one sheep was reported in 2019.
Fortunately, the proportion of farm animals on the wolf’s menu is less than one percent. Wolves primarily eat roe deer, red deer and wild boar, scientists from the Senckenberg Society for Natural Research have shown. They investigated the eating habits of wolves in the first eight years.
Are there any ways to reduce this damage?
There are various preventive measures to protect sheep and other farm animals from wolves. For example, farmers can use herd guard dogs. Another option is electric fences, which can reduce damage. These measures are financially supported by the federal states – in 2017 with a total of 1.32 million dollars. Of course, such measures cannot guarantee complete security.
The wolf is smart – and sometimes jumps over it
Because meanwhile individual wolves are already experts in overcoming protective devices. They even conquer fences, which are considered the minimum protection standards for compensation payments:
A taut, at least 90 centimeter high electric fence – flush with the bottom or with a live wire. Only those who observe this protection will receive money in the event of damage.
And there is a deluxe solution that is more effective, but also more expensive: 120 centimeters of electric fence with at least five electrical wires. This solution is recommended by the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation and the Federal Documentation and Advice Center on the subject of wolves. Sheep and goats are even safer in the barn at night, especially when accompanied by herd guard dogs. In general, herd protection is a matter for the federal states; protective measures are already being promoted in many federal states.
There is money for dead animals
In almost all federal states, the wolf management takes care of the compensation payments for wolfriss. To do this, the injured owner must appoint an appraiser.
For a compensation payment it is sometimes enough if wolves cannot be excluded as the cause.
Vigilante justice, however, is not a solution. Wolves are under protection, they are not allowed to be shot. The wolf is listed in Appendices II and IV of the European Fauna-Flora-Habitat Guidelines. In other words: He is under special protection. Anyone who shoots at him is liable to prosecution.
However, farmers and shepherds are not always satisfied with the measures. Getting the compensation payments is not easy and the protective measures are too expensive and often ineffective.
Why is man afraid of the wolf?
It has been ripping our farm animals for thousands of years. Animals that humans needed to survive.
This is probably why our ancestors associated him with the devil in the course of time. People ascribed characteristics such as malice and greed to him. As early as the beginning of the 9th century they organized the first driven hunts for wolves.
In addition, around 1500 the belief in werewolves spread. People on the fringes of society were ascribed the poor wolf characteristics – only to be sentenced to death. The bad image of the wolf solidified itself in literature over the centuries.
The result: It was hunted like no other animal and exterminated around 150 years ago. Isolated wolves in the wild had probably escaped from wildlife parks, zoos or circuses afterwards.
My please, help protect the wolf. Follow the laws and be careful when you see a wolf in the wild. Make sure that the wolf remains protected and report it if you know of poachers who hunt wolves for fun!