The grey wolf sighting has now been confirmed by France's biodiversity office l'Office français de la biodiversité – which marks the first confirmed wolf presence in Charente since 1926.
The wolf was spotted and photographed in the commune of Gurat, on the border between Charente and Dordogne, by 28-year-old local woman Marina Varraniac-François on Monday morning, as she returned from dropping his son off with his childminder.
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“At first I thought it was a big dog, but it looked a lot like a wolf. He was scared, you could tell he was scared.”
She photographed and filmed the animal on her phone, and the sighting has now been confirmed by the OFB, which monitors wolf activity in France.
Wolves are relatively common in France, but they tend to stick to higher ground and are concentrated in the east of the country, particularly in the Alps.
The last time there was a confirmed wolf presence in Charente was in 1926, when local newspaper Charente Libre reported that one had killed 11 sheep.
“The species is known for its great dispersal capacity, especially during the territory search phase. Thus, since its reappearance in the Southern Alps in 1992, the wolf has crossed territories as far away as the Pyrenees, Lorraine, Burgundy and the Somme”, said a spokesman for the OFB.
Once hunted to extinction, wolves were reintroduced to France in 1992 and since then have steadily expanded their territory.
Their numbers are tightly controlled, with the French state licensing hunting of a certain number per year to keep the population in check.
Nevertheless, their presence in France is the subject of fairly regular protests from farmers, who say they damage their livelihoods.