On Dec. 24, 2017, an influential nationalistic member of the Danish parliament, Søren Espersen, said, "Wolves attack small children and old people. It's nuts to have them in Denmark...[translated from the Danish]."  Espersen is a member if the Danish People’s Party (DF).  In May, 2017, former Danish Minister of Finance (Secretary of the Treasury) and center-right conservative party member, Henning Dyremose, compared the policies of the DF to the Ku Klux Klan.  Dyremose later explained that he made the remark based on his childhood experiences while living in America.

Søren Espersen wants an open season on Danish wolves, as does a coalition of European nationalistic parties, on behalf of sports hunting, sheep and other livestock farmers, and to undermine the science of the European Union. For the sake of ecosystems stability and species conservation, the EU Habitats Directive gives wolves maximum protections, and at first only allowed the destruction of wolves verified to be a direct threat to humans. And it offers incentives for member states to pay compensation for livestock loss.  This occurred as a result of the 1979 Berne Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats, which went into effect in 1982.  European countries that are not a member of the EU, such as Norway, do allow limited hunting of wolves, and there are efforts now to intensely expand culling wolves.  This Nordic fear of wolves makes no sense to senior science advisor, Susanne Hanssen, of the Norwegian Environment Agency.  Only one case of a fatal wolf attack is recorded in its entire 1200 year history.  Sweden has occasionally flouted the directive, with special hunting permits, with the EU responding with warnings.  The EU has also allowed a culling of 40 wolves in France, which polarized many.

To be fair, it isn’t only far-right, nationalists who want to hunt down wolves when perceived as a threat to livestock.  “If you can’t eliminate animals that attack, the situation won’t get any better,” said José Bové, a Green member of the European Parliament, who was formerly a sheep farmer in Aveyron in southern France. “All the efforts to protect shepherds, whether it’s fences or dogs or whatever — none of them have worked.” --Politico

An underlying motivation for Europe’s far-right, nationalistic parties to spread myths, such as Denmark’s Espersen with the big bad wolf fairy tale, is to destroy the European Union.  On Dec. 16, 2017, the leadership of these parties convened "For a Europe of Sovereign Nations” in Prague, Poland (already facing EU sanctions for putting the constitutional judiciary under significant executive government control).  Here they “attacked the EU for its migrant policies, accused its leaders of trying to create a super state run by Brussels and praised U.S. President Trump's approach to migration." 

That’s also true in the US: “The recent anti-wolf campaign represents an extraordinary cultural and political victory by the far-right wing in the Rocky Mountains. A loose coalition of some ranchers, hunters, and anti-government zealots demonized the gray wolves reintroduced to Montana and Idaho from Canada in the mid 1990s by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. They cast the animals as huge, aggressive, disease-ridden monsters bent on ravaging livestock, elk, deer, and even people.”

While it is true that there have been historical attacks by wolves on humans, such as 7,600 fatal attacks … documented from 1200–1920 in France, the truth of wolves’ danger is an entirely different story. Most of those attacks occurred wherever Europe was waging wars and directly threatening wolf existence.  In southern Asian countries, where spreading population densities have wiped out wilderness habitats, and where there is little scientific oversight and education to help people understand the wolf, there have been 200 reported deaths by wolves since 1950.  In that period, 3 fatalities have been documented in North America and eight in Europe and Russia combined. 

Putting all that in perspective, in 2013 alone 1.25 million people died as a result of vehicles… and in the 20th century alone, at least 200,000,000 (200 million) have perished in wars.  Additionally, “each year, dogs kill or injure many more people than wolves.  In 2012, the World Health Organization reported that, worldwide, over 55,000 people die annually of rabies, 99% of them infected by dog bites.  Children are especially at risk, since they are bitten by dogs 3-5 times more frequently than adults.” --(Overall & Love 2001 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11417736?).  And in the UK alone, “Government officials and senior police officers were presented this week [Jan. 21, 2017] with findings indicating that around 15,000 sheep were killed by loose dogs in 2016, more than ten times higher than the number previously thought.”

That’s not to justify that it’s OK for wolves to kill people.  As with driver’s ed, people simply need to learn how to live with the presence of the wolf since it is scientifically considered an animal of human importancefor the sake of a planet with a functional biosphere capable of supporting civilization.

The first chapter of “wolf-ed” would be to sift fact from fiction: "News media are attracted to controversy, and wolf recovery, depredations, control programs, and most any other wolf-related topics seem irresistible.  The Yellowstone wolf reintroduction was intensively covered by sixty international media.  Popular information about wolves is often biased or inaccurate (Wolves and Human Communities). When wolf stories appear, the extreme views of opponents and supporters of wolves are often highlighted, further polarizing the issue.  The way the media covers wolves leaves the impression that they are more of a problem than other animals (Reintroducing the Gray Wolf to Central Idaho and Yellowstone National Park)"
 
Through a scientifically understood function, called
trophic cascade, large predators enrich the essential biodiversity and ecological stability of the planetary habitats which gives us oxygen and helps clean up our carbon footprints, give us our food,  etc. All the biology which supports civilization is enriched by the top-down effects of the wolf. 

The impact of shooting a wolf is quite exactly, emotionally and otherwise, the same as a home invasion where the burglar shoots a family member. It is devastating to the family, lo the community, and as a keystone species with the capacity for a trophic cascade, it devastates the entire ecosystem.

Returning to the Danish issue, over two centuries ago wolves had been hunted into extinction in this tiny country of 5.7 million.  Evidence indicates that they were “…functionally extinct in Denmark at least since 1750.”  In 2012, a dead wolf was found in southern Denmark and soon after, someone spotted the first wild wolf since 1813.  Later DNA analysis of a female’s feces indicated that she had traveled over 550 kilometers (341 miles), from a wilderness near Berlin.  The working theory for  their return is that they had been “…young wolves rejected by their families who [were] looking for new hunting grounds," according to Peter Sunde, senior scientist at the Aarhus University Institute for Bioscience. 

Video of Danish wolf pair


They have now formed at least one pack with young, and perhaps two, due to suspected attacks on sheep in other wilderness areas.  Danish sheep farmers, having no experience with a large predator, are understandably concerned,.  Since 2012, farmers have received compensations of over 50,000 kroner ($7,000.00) for confirmed losses. 


Culling wolves as a preventive measure may only be a perception.

"As human populations continue to grow and we expand further into wilderness areas, we will have to find better ways to coexist with wildlife: particularly those that threaten our livelihoods or even our lives." BBC Earth: When you start killing wolves, something odd happens

Explaining a 2014 study, Guillaume Chapron of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences feels that the problem, and therefore solution, lies with us. "Wolves are quite adaptable to humans," he says. "The question is whether humans are adaptable to wolves."

Whilst killing an animal perceived as a threat may seem like an easy solution, it may not prove the most effective in the long-term. In fact, [the study] suggested that wolf culls can backfire in the short term by increasing the frequency of wolves killing livestock.

"Our results undermine the justifications used to kill wildlife," says [coauthor of the study, Adrian Treves of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "Therefore, more broadly, predator control as a government policy needs to be scrutinized."

***

The preponderance of the scientific evidence shatters the myth of the big bad wolf.  Arguably the most successful to adapt (in terms of distribution) of all mammals next to man (woman), wolves are integral to the evolution and stability of a great many habitats on the planet, from the arctic wolf of the far north to the near-solitary maned wolf of Argentina… and the highlands Himalayan wolf to the hot deserts Arabian wolf, just to name a few.  They provide a huge service to every ecosystem within which they interact, and not only by scavenging dead animals and directly controlling fauna, which are diseased or otherwise devastate habitats with overpopulation, from small rodents to the ungulates, such as deer, elk and the bighorn.  The beneficial impact of this large intelligent predator actually trickles down (please excuse this economically nasty word) to the very fundamental fabric of any habitat, increasing biodiversity, through that ecological function described above, the trophic cascade.

When wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone in 1995, this is what happened.  Its physical geography actually changed, beneficially.


There is no doubt that wolf attacks on humans have occurred in Europe, although there are few verified reports of attacks past the beginning of the twentieth century. Today there is considered to be very little risk to humans from wolves in Europe, yet public attitudes remain negative. Research shows that wolf attacks are perceived to be more common than they actually are, and fear of wolves is still a significant factor in opposition to wolf recovery in many areas.

This fear can be effectively addressed by good education, through lectures, talks, information centres and publications about wolves. It is important that education is carried out in all sections of society, and is honest about the risks posed by wolves. Denying that wolves are potentially dangerous can be counter-productive, as anti-wolf campaigners will accuse conservationists of deliberately misleading the public. Better understanding of the risks reduces fear. Education should include discouraging the public from feeding wolves or approaching too closely, as most incidents where people have been injured by wolves in the last few years have involved animals that had become habituated to being around people and associating them with food.”--The Wolves and Human Foundation

And let us not forget that man’s best friend was a wolf in a time long forgotten except through the DNA evidence

Bent Lorentzen

Bent Lorentzen

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