The wolf is making a come-back in France and across Europe.
A report in Le Monde on October 25 reveals that the wild animals are now appearing in agricultural areas far from the deep forests that are usually seen as their homes, such as the Haute-Marne area between Paris and the German border.
There were wolves everywhere in France back in the 18th century, but they were poisoned and hunted to the point of extinction and Canis lupus only reappeared some 20 years ago, in 1992.
Now there’s an estimated population of 300 individuals, which is thought to be growing at a rate of 20% a year. Numbers could shoot up even quicker, as in the right conditions they can manage a 40% annual increase.
It seems it is fallacy to imagine they are only forest-dwellers, as they can live pretty much anywhere there’s a supply of food – they mainly live off wild animals, such as deer, but up to 25% of their menu comes from domesticated animals like sheep, young cattle or goats, which obviously makes them less than popular with farmers.
Like many people, I feel a strange affinity with the wolf. I’m not quite sure why this is, as I am usually pretty apprehensive about encounters with their less ferocious canine cousins.
The wolf obviously symbolises something for us. Unlike a domestic dog, it is not a fawning and dependent creature, but a proudly independent one capable of leaving the pack on its own and heading off to find a new life hundreds of miles away.
The wolf also represents something wild and primal in us that has been repressed, but not quite destroyed, by modern civilization. A rise in the numbers of wolves seems like a return of this wild element into our cloistered and sanitised world.
I write “seems” because it is as a result of conservation laws that wolves can no longer be slaughtered in the way they once were. But maybe the very existence of those laws hints at a part of the human psyche still drawn to the idea of the untamed?
Maybe, deep inside, we all yearn to be standing on a rocky mountain ledge on a crisp winter’s night, feet planted firmly in the snow and wailing our solitary heart’s soulful desires to the listening moon?