For a long time, wolves had been wiped out in Germany, now they are slowly getting back home. But not everyone is happy at the return of the wild animal. The feeding habits of Canis lupus are the subject of many legends and fables. Wolves that tear sheep apart, eat household pets and even attack people - the return of the predators to German regions awakens fear and generates conflict amongst its inhabitants, hunters and farmers.
Awakens unfounded fear in many: The wolf
© Stefan Seidel
Wolves have felt at home in Lusatia for ten years
© Stefan Seidel
"We were interested to find out how, why and how quickly the dietary composition of the wolf has changed in Saxony" explains Ansorge. The wolves in Lusatia came to Germany from Poland. There, the packs lived primarily on red deer, in contrast to the German wolves. During the early years of the study, the proportion of red deer eaten was considerably higher, whilst the ratio of roe deer was accordingly lower than in the subsequent five years. "We asked ourselves why the wolves changed their behaviour or whether the initial conditions had changed", the Görlitz zoologist continues.
In comparison to the Polish forests, those in Lusatia tend to be smaller and crossed by paths and fields. They offer the perfect expansive living space for roe deer and wild boar, whilst red deer tend to retreat to the more spacious wooded areas. Roe deer are therefore a simple and frequent prey from the wolves' perspective.
The shift in eating patterns therefore resulted from the change in the environmental conditions. The wolves quickly adapted – they required less than two generations to become used to the new conditions of the landscape in East Germany.Since the legal protection of wolves was introduced in 1990, it has taken more than ten years for the wolves in Germany to make themselves at home and bear pups on the Muskau Heath (a military training area). At the present time, nine wolf packs live in Lusatia with around 34 young. "The potential for conflict between man and wolf is very low" Ansorge sums up the results of the study. "There really is nothing standing in the way of the wolf returning."
Researching life forms in their diversity and their eco systems, climate research and geology, the search for past life and finally understanding the complete system of life on earth – this the objective of SENCKENBERG Gesellschaft für Naturforschung. Exhibitions and museums are the viewing windows for natural research, through which Senckenberg imparts current scientific findings to people and provides an insight into past eras as well as the diversity of nature. More information at www.senckenberg.de.
Judith Jördens | Senckenberg
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