Dutch court bars shooting wolf with paintballs
A Dutch judge on Tuesday temporarily barred a local authority from shooting paintball pellets at a young wolf, saying further research was needed.
The central province of Gelderland had approved the use of paintball guns to deter the animal from getting too close to visitors at a national park.
The move sparked howls of protest from the Fauna Protection wildlife group, which lodged a case saying that wolves were protected under European law and that the canine was merely curious.
“The province of Gelderland may not continue to deter wolves with paintball guns for the time being,” the Central Netherlands District Court said in a statement.
“The necessity of the measure has not been sufficiently substantiated.”
Provincial officials had argued that the wolf had learned to associate humans in the Hoge Veluwe national park with food and so was showing “deviant behaviour”.
But the court said paintballs — normally used by humans against each other as a popular sporting activity — were an “experimental tool” in wolf deterrence.
“It’s unclear if the paint bullets will injure the wolf and if a paint mark will cause him to be ostracised by his pack,” the judge said.
While the court took the issue seriously, it was “not clear whether it was always about the same wolf or whether it was indeed only a curious young wolf,” the judge added.
The province should also look at options such as closing parts of the park “in which not humans but rather the wolf are protected.”
Wolf paintballing must now stop at least until six weeks after Gelderland province decides on the wildlife group’s objections. It was not clear when the province would decide.
Wolves have made a slow comeback in Western Europe in recent years after overhunting, industrialisation and urban sprawl led to their virtual disappearance since the beginning of the 20th century.
But that has led to tensions, particularly with farmers.
Wolves killed some 30 sheep in the northern province of Drenthe in September, according to the BIJ12 agency that keeps track of damage caused by wolves in the country.
It estimates that there are currently four packs of wolves and 11 lone wolves in the Netherlands.