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Wolves continue their advance on Paris

Published: 23 Apr 2014 17:03 GMT+02:00

Wolves continue their approach towards the French capital, slowly and stealthily, it seems.

This week authorities confirmed that for the first time one of the wild predators was caught on camera within 250 km of Paris in the Meuse department of north eastern France.

It may sound far enough away not to be concerned but it comes after another wolf was killed in January in the Marne department, just 160 km from the capital.

The wolf photographed (see below) in la Meuse was snapped on April 18th by an automatic camera belonging to the National Office of Hunting and Fauna. The camera was installed as part of an investigation following a flurry of reports of several wolf attacks on sheep since October 2013.

Although the chances of the public seeing one in the future wandering around the Jardins des Luxembourg or the Champ de Mars, are almost nil, the animals are expected to continue their advance into the Ile de France region around Paris in the years to come. The forest of Fontainebleau is expected to have been colonised within two years.

(The wolf caught on camera in the Marne department, withing 250 km of Paris) 

Alain Laurent, head of the Wolf and Lynx network in north-east France, told Le Figaro newspaper that wolves will continue to close in on Paris but are unlikely to cross the peripherique.

“Do not panic the wolves will not be biting Parisians, but one day we might see them in the grande couronne (outlying suburbs),” he says.

But Laurent adds: “Wolves are animals that can move very far, very quickly (400km a day) and they will not be afraid of human infrastructure like motorways."

“For example whole packs crossed the Rhone Valley [from the Alps] to settle in the Massif Central,” he said.

The wild animals come a long way since they first reappeared in the Alps in 1992 after being wiped out entirely in France by 1937 through being hunted or poisoned.

Since their return to French soil wolf packs have also settled in the Massif Central in the centre of France and were officially recorded as having spread out to the Vosges mountains in the east in 2012. 

They have also been spotted in the Jura and last May numerous attacks on sheep were reported in the Aube and Haute-Marne departments of the Champagne Ardennes region.There are now an estimated 300 wolves in France living in between 20 to 25 different packs.

This map, published by Le Monde newspaper shows the areas of France now colonised by the predators as well as the rise in the number of attacks on animals.

The resurgence of the animals in France is a divisive issue that puts farmers, fed up at seeing their livestock destroyed (around 5,000 a year in France) at loggerheads with wildlife campaigners, who say farmers have to adapt to live alongside wolves.

Wolves are actually a protected species in France but in certain areas where farm animals have been regularly attacked, special hunts have been permitted and a maximum of 24 wolves are allowed to be culled each year.

However success has been limited.

In August last year The Local reported how some exasperated farmers had called for professional hunters from the US to be drafted in as locals had proved incapable of finding and killing the predators.

"In France, no one knows how to hunt wolves!" cried Laurent Cayrel, head of Var prefect in Provence, when he met with sheep farmers.

Not a single wolf was killed during a recent 150-man hunt to cull the animals in the military camp of Canjuers, in Provence where up to 80 percent of all wolf attacks in France have taken place.

In February last year in a seemingly hairbrained bid to try and crackdown on the number of wolf attacks on farm animals the French government announced a plan to try and "educate" the wild beasts.

SEE ALSO: The most dangerous animals found in France

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Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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