Wolves Have Returned to Denmark After 200 years

Grey wolves in Europe
European grey wolves are pictured in the animal park of Sainte-Croix, on December 12, 2012, in Rhodes, eastern France. AFP / Stringer

Scientists in Denmark say wolves have returned to the country for the first time in 200 years.

There had been no sightings of wolves in the past two centuries until a male was spotted wandering in Jutland, Denmark's peninsula bordering Germany, five years ago.

Since that sighting, researchers have been waiting to see if the male wolf would come across a female mate. Five years later, they no longer have to speculate as the first wolf pack has been spotted in the region.

DNA evidence from faeces has confirmed that the cub of the male wolf has settled in west Jutland with a companion and CCTV images show a wolf pair traveling together in the area.

Peter Sunde, a researcher of wildlife behavior at Aarhus University, told Newsweek that the last verified sighting of a wolf before 2012 was in 1813. "Wolves were exterminated in Denmark because of intense persecution," he said. "The species was protected in the late 20th century. In 2016, there were 47 reproducing family groups in Europe. Young wolves are highly adaptable and are now dispersing into northern Germany and Denmark."

Researchers know of at least five wolves—four males, one female—in Denmark. Soon this number may grow if the wolf pair mate this year.

"They may also postpone until next year since they probably have not been established for more than eight months by now," he said. "If we observe two wolves together in May-June, they are most likely not mating as the female will stay with the cubs in or near the den while the male is foraging on his own."

Danish sheep farmers are wary about the reemergence of wolves in the region and have urged the government to take action after a string of wolf attacks earlier this year. Dozens of sheep have been killed since the first wolf was spotted and farmers have demanded government funding so that they can build enclosures to protect their flocks.

Hendrik Bertelsen, a representative of Danish Wildlife Management Council's wolf committee, told Danish media that the government's response to the reemergence of the wolves was "tremendously unsatisfactory."

"It is as if the authorities were not prepared for the situation arising," he said. "It is simply too slow."