[UPDATED]  A (dead) Wolf appears in the Netherlands: a joke or not?
Posted: 11 July 2013 03:10 PM   [ Ignore ]
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A dead wolf found last week near Luttelgeest in the center of the Netherlands made big headlines. The animal was apparently hit by a car and was found alongside a road.

But was it a true wild wolf reappearing for the first time in over a century: or a hoax?

Wolves have been long gone from the Netherlands. Wolves were hunted to extinction in NW Europe some 150 years ago. The last wolf shot in the Netherlands was in 1881. The last non-21st century wolf sighting, although not confirmed, was in 1897.

Wolves are coming back however. They are taking back Europe coming from the east, with a quickly growing population in Germany. Photographically confirmed sightings in 2011 placed a wolf only 15 km from the Dutch border. In 2011 too, there were two unconfirmed sightings, one with blurry photographs, in the east-central Netherlands (news items here and here, in Dutch). And now there is that dead wolf lying alongside a country road). After autopsy experts at the Dutch National Museum of Natural History declared it was almost certainly a wolf.

But the Faunal Agency of Flevopolder thinks it is a hoax (source, in Dutch: here). They suggest the animal was killed in Germany and brought to the Netherlands as a hoax, “probably by eastern Europeans working on farms in the region’. They cite a number of arguments:

- A similar prank was pulled a few years ago with a dead seal;
- the Wolf had a dead beaver in its stomach, and “beavers do not occur in the area”;
- “it is unlikely that a wolf would appear in an inhabited area”;
- “the animal was alone instead of being part of a pack”;
- “why did the person who hit it not come forward?”

Yet other experts, notably those of the Dutch National Museum of Natural History, were quick to point out that many of the arguments above are flawed or flat-out wrong (source, in Dutch).

For example:

- Beavers actually do live very close (within 25 km) to the area where the wolf carcass was found, and wolves are know to cover large distances on one night;
- Wolves have been confirmed in similar habitats in Germany (and the location where the wolf was found is quite rural);
- Especially in this time of the year, wolves sometimes leave the pack and scout for new territory. They are know to cover distances of hundreds of kilometers on such trips (moreover, we do not actually know whether this wolf was alone. One generally doesn’t run ones car over a complete pack)
- Big animals (deer, badgers, swine) are hit by cars daily in the Netherlands and very few drivers report it. Moreover, the driver might be afraid to come forward after all the media attention (with the general tone: “first wolf in over a century and it is immediately run over by a car”).

So: was this a true wild wolf, or a hoax? The jury is still out….

While it can certainly have been a hoax, it equally could be a true wild wolf. Over the past years, wolves have come very close to the borders of our small country already.

** UPDATE 21/08/2013**

DNA from the wolf shows it is a wolf and matches DNA of Carpathian wolves, i.e. s-Poland, Chzechia wolves. So it travelled 900 km, which is however not unheard of for wolves.

Fresh wolf droppings have been found in the area where the dead wolf was found, so it looks like it is not a hoax: this truely was a life wolf run over by a car.

source (in Dutch).
source (in English)

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The Kruger-Dunning effect is rampant on internet fora.
J. Kruger & D. Dunning (1999), Unskilled and unaware of it: how difficulties in recognizing one’s own incompetence lead to inflated self-assessments. J Pers Soc Psychol. 77, 1121-1134

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Posted: 18 July 2013 05:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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A shame… ...
I read that it is illegal to kill them in Germany and so it follows that the pelt would go to waste as well… and not likely that it was a native animal, but even if it was it would still be a protected species… so I can imagine someone local hitting it and panicking (if not a hoax)... Hard to say.

I have family who harvests coyote and fox pelts and we have a growing wolf population in Michigan that has reached numbers where they can be selectively harvested (under the watchful eye of our Department of Natural Resources as a tool for Wildlife Management - 2013 hearlds the issuance of 1200 permits to hunt and harvest 43 wolves approved on May 9, 2013 and going on sale August 3, 2013). They have become a nuisance to ranchers who raise livestock in our upper peninsula (by some of the ranchers claims) and apparently it is justified by being removed from the endangered species list and voter approval (Reference Proposal G 1996 Michigan Wildlife Management Referendum & reclassiification of the wolf as a game animal in 2012 by current Governor Rick Snyder)

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Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans. - John Lennon
You can twist perceptions, reality won’t budge. - Rush

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