Wolf officially settled in the Netherlands: how do we know?

Published on
February 22, 2019

A female wolf, ‘GW998f’, has been present on the Veluwe for six months now. This fact makes it official: the wolf has settled in the Netherlands. This was determined by Hugh Jansman and colleagues of Wageningen Environmental Research, who are investigating the animal's DNA. Hugh explains in five questions and answers how we know and what official settlement actually means.

Where is this female wolf coming from?

This female wolf originates from a pack near Babben in Brandenburg (DE), ca. 600 km off the Dutch border. She was detected in May last year, firstly in Friesland and subsequently retrieved in Drenthe on the basis of droppings and samples of bite wounds of sheep in that province and in Overijssel as well. She was spotted on the Veluwe for the first time at the end of July 2018. In the period between 6 August and 15 October, five wolf droppings were collected in this region, of which it could be determined these were hers.

How do we know this?

We can determine it on the basis of DNA-research on wolf droppings. These are collected by volunteers of the Dutch Wolvenmeldpunt. Droppings that might be from a wolf are easily detectable. These are usually around 25 cm long, 3 cm thick and one can find a lot of hair and bone material from wild animals in it. The droppings of a wolf are being tested in our lab for DNA, to determine if these actually are from a wolf and also to find out which wolf it concerns. For this we are cooperating, via the CEwolf-consortium, with our German colleagues of the Research Institute Senckenberg, that maintains a database of DNA-profiles of the German packs of wolves.

The wolf has officially settled on the Veluwe, what does that involve?

Most wolves in the Netherlands are roaming the country. Last year 10 wolves have been in the Netherlands, but in the case of female GW998f we know, by DNA-research, that she actually has stayed on the Veluwe over the past six months. This is the criterion set by governmental agencies, that when met, allows for the official statement that the wolf has settled. DNA-trails of a male wolf have also been found on the North-Veluwe recently. Whether the male wolf will also prove to be a stayer, remains to be seen.

Settled or roaming, what is the difference?

Whether a wolf is settled or is still roaming, is a matter of concern in relation to the danger they might signify to their prey. Wolves that are settled in a certain area will prefer to eat game, based on their familiarity with the area. Germany, for example, has many settled wolves that attack livestock far less. This to the contrary with what a roaming wolf does: such wolves will choose the occasional sheep, every now and then. They behave like youngsters who recently left home. Each night they will walk circa 50 km, while they do not actually know the circumstances of the area. These easily opt for ‘fastfood’.

What will be the next step?

This month we are finalising the genetic monitoring of the samples from the previous quarter. This will lead to an outline of the region, among others, of where the female wolf GW998f is active, as her territory. This information will give the Province of Gelderland arguments for the decision-making on a policy. In the inter-provincial Wolf Plan and in the designation Decree by GS (the Provincial Executive), it is stated that there is 'foreseeable damage' in case the wolf settles in this country. Livestock farmers have to take preventive measures then, according to the Faunapreventiekit of (Dutch). The designation Decree by GS indicates, that a regional border to the territory should be determined. Within that region, the Province of Gelderland will facilitate interest groups in their dealings with the wolf. We are providing the Province with scientific expertise on the behaviour of wolves.