Soldiers join up to keep wolf-cub spotters at a distance

Soldiers join up to keep wolf-cub spotters at a distance
Noëlla and two of her cubs came photographed at night. © INBO/ANB

The birth of four cubs to wolf pair August and Noëlla has made the headlines, and the main concern now for forest rangers is to keep away the curious and those of ill will.

The location of the place where the wolves and their cubs are currently staying has been revealed, but given the circumstances, there is no need to repeat it.

The wolves need to be able to rest where they are now, so we will keep wolf spotters, photographers and curious hikers at bay,” forest ranger Eddy Ulenaers told the VRT.

That’s quite possible with the help of nature inspectors, the police and fellow rangers, and there are even soldiers who help us out. We really have a very good team.”

The newborn cubs do not yet have the strength to cover the distances adult wolves do when they are hunting, so they will be staying in one place while one of the adults goes for food and the other stands guard.

The wolf is an apex predator, which means it has no natural enemies. But the entire nature conservancy sector is painfully aware of what happened to the last litter of wolves in Flanders: she-wolf Naya and her cubs were killed, according to the Nature and Forest agency by professional hunters. Their remains were never found.

Flanders currently has three adult wolves – August and Noëlla, and Billy, who came into Belgium from the Den Bosch area in the Netherlands, and was recently thought to be returning there. It turns out he has decided to stay in Belgium for the time being.

The presence of wolves is a blessing to some, but comes inevitably with accusations of the killing of livestock. Not always valid accusations: the animal guilty of biting sheep in one case in April turned out to be a dog.

In another case, experts swore that a foal killed by being mauled in the Hasselt area in May was not the victim of a wolf, but had been stillborn and the body eaten by birds and a fox.

Whether the accusations are valid or not, the wolf now enjoys the highest level of protection the Flemish government can offer, and it appears there are plenty of people willing to work to ensure the wolves’ safety.

Not even the professionals on the ground are willing to risk that safety for the sake of a quick glimpse.

I haven't seen them in real life myself,” Ulenaers said. “That's why I was so moved by the photos. That is truly a milestone, the crowning achievement of years of work. But we follow their actions and keep our distance.

"We look for tracks and analyse leftover food or excrement. We also keep a close eye on the wildlife cameras so we have a fairly accurate picture of their life. But we do not actively seek contact – precisely because we want to let them live in the most favourable conditions possible.”

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

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