Last week a camera trap captured an image of a wolf crossing a clearing in a wooded area near Doksy in North Bohemia. Wolves disappeared from Bohemia in the late 19th century and the new photo confirms speculation about the animal’s return to this part of the world.
But where have the wolves come from? And how many are there? I put those questions to expert Miroslav Kutal from the Czech branch of the environmental group Friends of the Earth.
“These wolves – now it’s only one – probably came from the population along the border with Germany and Poland. This population started to really grow about 10 years ago and now there are also some dispersals coming to the Czech Republic.
“Actually this is not the first occurrence of wolves in Bohemia now. A wolf was also spotted on the border with Germany two years ago. And a year before that case a wolf probably also killed sheep in the Krkonoše Mountains.”
Do you have any idea about the number of wolves in Bohemia today? And do you expect the population to grow here?
“I think the conditions are quite good, especially in some former military zones and also in the mountains along the borders.
“For now we only have this one picture of a wolf and several signs of occurrence, so we think there could be one wolf or maybe a pair. Further research is needed to prove if there is a pack or only dispersals.”
If wolves were to return in greater numbers to Bohemia what would it mean for the Czech countryside?
“I think in general it’s a good message for the Czech countryside, because wolves can help hunters and foresters to regulate the number of deer.
“In general it is a positive message. Also wolves are quite attractive for a lot of tourists, so I think in some border regions wolves can help with promotion of the region.”
But is there a danger to wolves from humans? I see that the head of the Nature Conservation Agency says that he tried to keep the return of wolves secret for nearly a year because he was afraid that “would-be environmentalists and would-be photographers” would disturb them.
“I think the main problem is poaching. There were several cases in the Beskydy Mountains in the ‘90s when wolves first came to the eastern part of Moravia.
“I think in general it’s better that most people know that there are wolves and they can also keep a watch on what’s happening – and that can be one factor that can limit poaching.”
This story has generated quite a bit of attention in the media. Is there something that’s simply fascinating about wolves for many people – just the very idea of a wolf?
“We can see from monitoring the media that most messages have been positive. So I think also that the opinion of people towards this returning carnivore is generally positive or neutral.”