Wolf spotting shows return to central France

29th January 2009, Comments 0 comments

The slow return of the wolf to areas of France where it was previously considered extinct is continuing, forest rangers said Monday, after one was spotted in the Lozere region.

MENDE -  Wolf tracks have been found in the snow near Bondons, in the hills and forests of the Cevennes National Park 500 kilometres (312 miles) south of Paris, where one park official believes he saw one of the predators.

A dead calf was found on farmland nearby, but it had been torn at by so many different animals it was difficult to say what killed it. Authorities are to conduct DNA tests on spoor samples found in the forest.

Last year, park officials confirmed an aged female and a young male were roaming nearby Saint-Laurent-de-Muret. Wolves must be seen in a region for two consecutive winters before the species is considered to have returned.

If confirmed the Lozere wolves would be among the deepest inside France since Italian wolves began crossing into the French Alps from Italy in 1990s, to the delight of conservationists but the dismay of farmers.

France's indigenous grey wolves were eradicated in 1920s by hunting and the depletion of their habitat, but further afield in east and central Europe populations have begun to recover and spread.

The return of wolves to the Alps, along with the tentative return of bears to the French and Spanish Pyrenees, has proved controversial, with farmers demanding the right to shoot them to defend their sheep and cattle.

This week's sighting appears to confirm that wolves are returning to the Massif Central, a region of highlands in central France, far from the Alps.

In April, last year a farmer was cleared after being charged over the 2004 shooting of France's last native female bear. A court ruled he had not broken the law, but conservatives have accelerated plans to reintroduce the animal.


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