One foot out of the grave: Wolves back in Luxembourg

After a century of absence, wolves have returned to one of Europe’s smallest countries. DNA has provided the necessary evidence.

The wolf is one of Europe’s largest predators. Humans hunted this enigmatic species to extinction in Western Europe more than 100 years ago. When finally protected some 30 years ago, wolves staged a remarkable comeback. Notably in France and Germany, many wolf packs are now re-established.

As recently reported in the journal Mammalia by zoologist Dr. Laurent Schley and colleagues, the expansion of wolves has now also reached Luxembourg. By analysing DNA taken from bite wounds from sheep killed by predators, the researchers were able to detect wolves in two cases, in 2017 and 2020.

Wolf wandering the forest
Wild wolf in the forest © kjekol/Getty Images

These are the first confirmed records of wolves in Luxembourg since 1893. Schley, deputy director of Luxembourg’s government agency for nature conservation, said: “It is really exciting news that wolves are returning after such a long absence. If they manage to settle, they will contribute to a healthier natural environment.”

What is even more remarkable was that the two wolves detected in Luxembourg originated from different areas: one from the Alps (the Alpine population) and one from Northern Germany (the Central European population). Similar developments are observed in neighbouring countries.

“In the coming years and decades, wolves of the two populations will probably mix in this area of Europe”, concluded Schley, who is also a member of the Large Carnivore Initiative for Europe, a European expert group. Therefore “It will be a challenge: people have to learn to live with wolves again. Educating people and helping shepherds to protect their flocks will be crucial elements for generating acceptance for wolves, which are an integral part of our nature.”

If you are interested, learn more in the original article here:

Laurent Schley, Marianne Jacobs, Sebastian Collet, Alexander Kristiansen & Jan Herr: First wolves in Luxembourg since 1893, originating from the Alpine and Central European populations. Mammalia, 05.01.2020.

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