Were campers really attacked by wolves in a French national park?

Two hikers claim that their camp was attacked by a wolf when they were staying near Lake Faravel in the heart of the Écrins National Park in eastern France.

Were campers really attacked by wolves in a French national park?
A wolf walks in the forest of the Bourbansais zoo in Pleugueneuc, north west France. Photo: AFP

In the middle of the night of September 17th, the hikers were disturbed by noise at their camp. They woke to find their tent and part of their backpack had been violently torn apart. Panicking, they fled down into the valley.

The couple, familiar with the area, attributed the attack to a wolf in an interview on local television channel D!CI on Tuesday.

An expert assessment is now under way in conjunction with the ONCFS (Office national de la chasse et de la faune sauvage) “to collect as much detail as possible on the facts” and “to determine what may have happened”.

The hikers will officially present their version of events during the week.

“We take the subject seriously,” responded the communication department of the Écrins National Park.


But local officials have cast some doubt on the theory that a wolf was behind the attack.

“We already had a report, a few days earlier, of a fox demonstrating aggressive behaviour towards hikers in the campsite (torn tent, effects and especially stolen food),” said Écrins National Park in their statement.

In April 2016, the Hautes-Alpes prefecture issued a shoot to kill order for Filou, a fox considered potentially dangerous who used to disturb people and other animals in the Lautaret mountain pass.

This fox hypothesis is also favoured by the mayor of Freissinières, Cyrille Drujon d'Astros: “I have had no information about wolves. It seems more likely that it was foxes who came to search the tent and backpack of the hikers to find something to eat.”

Nurturing the return of wolves in France continues to provoke debate.

Wildlife groups are delighted that they have made a comeback and the wolf population has increased this year to more than 530 animals in comparison to 430 last year.

The total number of départements where wolves have been regularly sighted is now 38 – around a third of the country.

But, alongside this, farmers have also complained about an increase in attacks on their herds and wild animals.

French breeders hold a banner reading “no to wolves” as they demonstrate with their animals in Lyon. Photo: AFP

In mid-September, the prefecture of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes raised the quota of wolves for slaughter to 100, producing outrage with a number of  animal protection organisations.

In general, wolves tend to flee from humans. In France, no wolf attacks on humans have ever been reported.

Recently, in Canada, a family was attacked by a wolf in Banff National Park, but this is an extremely rare occurence. The authorities attributed this unusual behaviour to the poor condition of the wolf as it neared the end of its life.


Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Snobs, beaches and drunks – 5 things this joke map teaches us about France

A popular joke 'map' of France has once again been widely shared on social media, sparking endless jokes at the expense of certain regions of France.

Snobs, beaches and drunks - 5 things this joke map teaches us about France
Image AFP/
But while the map – created by – is clearly intended to be comic, it teaches us some important points about France’s regional divides, local stereotypes and in-jokes.

Here are some of the key points.
1. Everyone hates Parisians
The map is purportedly France as seen through the eyes of Parisians, and contains a series of snobbish and rude generalisations about every part of France that is not maison (home) in the capital and its surroundings. The great majority of the country is labelled simply as paysans (peasants).
The general stereotype about Parisians is that they are snobs, rudely judging the rest of the country which they regard as backwards and full of ploucs (yokels) apart from small areas which make nice holiday destinations.
Like all sweeping generalisations, this is true of some people and very much not of others, but one of the few things that can unite people from all areas of France is how much they hate les parigots têtes de veaux (a colloquialism that very roughly translates as ‘asshole Parisians’)
2. Staycations rule
Even before Covid-related travel restrictions, holidaying within France was the norm for many French people.
As the map shows, Parisians regard the southern and western coastlines as simply plages (beaches) which they decamp to for at least a month in July or August. In the height of summer French cities tend to empty out (apart from tourists) as locals head to the seaside or the countryside.
In winter the Pyrenees and Alps are popular ski destinations.
3. Northerners like a drink
There is a very widespread stereotype, although not really backed up by evidence, that the people of Normandy, Brittany and the Nord area like a drink or two. Many suggest this is to cope with the weather, which does tend to be rainier than the rest of France (although has plenty of sunshine too).
Official health data doesn’t really back this up, as none of these areas show a significantly greater than average rate of daily drinkers, although Nord does hold the sad record for the highest rate of people dying from alcohol-related liver disease.
What’s certainly true is that Brittany and Normandy are cider country, with delicious locally-produced ciders on sale everywhere, well worth a try if you are visiting.
4. Poverty
The map labels the north eastern corner of France as simply pauvres – the poor.
The north east of the country was once France’s industrial and coal-mining heartland, and as traditional industries have declined there are indeed pockets of extreme poverty and high unemployment. The novel The End of Eddy, telling the story of novelist Edouard Louis’ childhood in a struggling small town near Amiens, lays out the social problems of such areas in stark detail.
However poverty is not just confined to one corner of France and the département that records the highest levels of deprivation is actually Seine-Saint-Denis in the Paris suburbs.
5. Southern prejudice
According to the map, those from the south are either branleurs (slackers) or menteurs (liars). 
This isn’t true, obviously, there are many lovely, hard-working and truthful people in southern France, but the persistent stereotype is that they are lazy – maybe because it’s too hot to do much work – and slightly shifty.
Even people who aren’t actually rude about southerners can be pretty patronising, as shown when south west native Jean Castex became the prime minister in summer 2020. 
Castex has a noticeable south west accent which sparked much comment from the Paris-based media and political classes, with comments ranging from the patronising – “I love his accent, I feel like I’m on holiday” – to the very patronising – “that accent is a bit rugby” (a reference to the fact that TV rugby commentators often come from France’s rugby heartlands in the south west).
In his first year as PM, Castex has undertaken a dizzying schedule of appointments around the four corners of France, so hopefully the lazy myth can now be put to bed.
And anyone tempted to take the piss out of his accent – glottophobie (accent prejudice) is now a crime in France.
For more maps that reflect France, head to