When we first moved to Preuilly twelve years ago it was becoming obvious that wolves that had crossed the mountains from Italy into France were resident, breeding and thriving. Numbers increased every year and the packs began to spread. But, I confidently proclaimed on this very blog, we won't ever see them again in the wild in lowland France. I was wrong.
After an absence of around a century, wolves are back in the Touraine and Berry. A lone wolf Canis lupus (Fr. loup) was seen in late November near Cinq Mars la Pile, Indre et Loire, photographed and officially identified. One was also seen in Vienne on 3 December. Now a dead sheep has been found at Ruffec, not far from Le Blanc in Indre.
|Wolf scupltures by Amandine Bocquelet.
About ten days after the observation of the wolf at Cinq Mars la Pile, two sheep farmers in Indre reported that several of their ewes had been killed or wounded. The Office francais de la biodiversité has announced that wolf attack cannot be excluded. They've looked at the carcasses and the wounds, the puncture marks from the teeth and how the carcass was consumed, but it is difficult to pronounce on cause of death with certainty because scavengers and weather conditions may have altered the scene of the attack and the appearance of the carcass.
The OFB goes on to say that despite these exceptional sightings in Centre-Val de Loire we are a long way from having packs of wolves roaming around here. The types of sightings we've been having are not surprising in autumn and early winter. The pups born in the spring are old enough to take their place in their pack, which forces some mature non-breeding pack members to leave and disperse to find territories of their own.
|A wolf in Haute Touche Zoo, not far from us, near Azay le Ferron.
These lone wolves are capable of travelling hundreds of kilometres in a handful of days before they settle in a territory. So it is possible that the wolf which killed the sheep at Ruffec is already far away.
There is a national action plan by the Ministry of Agriculture which aims at maintaining and cohabiting with this protected species, which has been making a comeback in France since the 1990s. The State can give a derogation so that a wolf may be shot in certain cases, as well as compensation to farmers for animals killed and veterinary care for those injured.