Dutch authorities allow firing of paintballs to scare ‘too tame’ wolves

Action comes after social media video shows wolf strolling past family in Hoge Veluwe national park

Dutch provincial authorities have authorised the use of paintballs to scare wolves they say have grown so unafraid of humans that they could become a serious danger.

“We’re dealing with wolves that have become too tame,” a spokesperson for Gelderland province in the eastern Netherlands told the broadcaster Omroep Gelderland. “We have to make them frightened of people again.”

The provincial government in Arnhem took the decision last week after a video circulating on social media showed a wolf strolling confidently past a visibly anxious young family in the 5,400-hectare (15,800-acre) Hoge Veluwe national park.

De @faunabeschermin heeft aangifte gedaan tegen directie @HogeVeluwe wegens het verzaken van haar zorgplicht jegens de onder haar verantwoordelijkheid vallende wolven. Nergens werden wolven zo tam zonder bijvoeren @Meldpunt144 @POL_Gelderland 🐺📯 pic.twitter.com/UX2LOHVvKw

— DFB Gelderland (@fb_provGLD) October 26, 2022

The provincial government spokesperson said paintballs had been chosen to allow park wardens to see which animals had been targeted. The objective was solely to frighten them and make sure they stayed at least 30 metres (100ft) from people, he said.

According to a report in June, the Netherlands is believed to be home to at least 20 adult wolves: a pack and two pairs in the Veluwe, a pair on the border between Drenthe and Friesland provinces, and 11 lone animals roaming the country.

At least 16 pups were born this summer, according to a September report, including 13 in the Veluwe region and three in the park itself. There have been 372 wolf sightings so far this year and experts have said the figures may underestimate the total.

The animal protection association Faunabescherming has accused the management of the park – which has consistently objected to the wolves’ presence on the grounds that they prey on sheep and other animals – of deliberately feeding them.

Wolves are generally shy around humans and naturalists say their behaviour in the park is highly unusual. The animals are protected but may be removed or culled if they became a problem – which could be the case if they come too close to humans.

“We have reason to believe the park owner is responsible for taming the wolves,” the Faunabescherming president, Niko Koffeman, said. “If the Hoge Veluwe has a wolf population that is behaving significantly differently from others in the Netherlands and in surrounding countries, the situation is suspicious.”

The park has denied the allegations. Its director, Seger Emmanuel baron van Voorst tot Voorst, was scathing about the latest plan. “They want to scare wolves so they don’t attack people, so they’re going to shoot them with paintballs,” he said. “It’s a fake solution so they don’t have say ‘shoot them dead.’”


Jon Henley Europe correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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