Germany No Longer Keeping the Wolf from the Door
The mournful howling of wolves is echoing these days through the forested woodlands of eastern Germany for the first time in centuries.
According to experts, one reason for the return of the cunning canine is that all its natural enemies have disappeared.
Earlier this year, reports said that red foxes are also on the increase. Ironically, the increase in foxes has also benefited hungry wolves, which feed on foxes and their pups. The disappearance of lynxes and brown bears in the 20th century has helped to reverse the fall in the fox population. Without those natural enemies, foxes have been able to establish themselves as the dominant carnivore in many areas of Central Europe.
And with the foxes on the march across Western Europe, wolves are following literally in their footprints. In addition, the widespread eradication of rabies has also been a boon to wild canine families, since rabies has always been the primary biological enemy of these creatures.
Wolves have been sighted in recent weeks in a forest near the town of Ludwigslust, located midway between Berlin and Hamburg, Germany's two largest cities. Wolves are already fairly frequently spotted east of Berlin and in Poland. But Hamburg, a seaport on the North Sea at the base of the Danish peninsula, has not seen any wolves for centuries.
"It is only a matter of time before wolves spread all across northern Germany in their move ever-westward," said Josef Reichholf, a biology professor at the University of Munich.
"Northern Germany is the perfect habitat for the wolf," Reichholf said. "Aside from two large cities, Berlin and Hamburg, the region is sparsely settled. There are vast areas of woodlands, lakes and dark forests."
Northern Germany will be a turning point for the wolf population, he said.