The she-wolf recently found dead close to Luttelgeest was a full blooded wolf. The animal probably originated from Eastern Europe. It seems likely that the wolf came to the Netherlands of its own accord and spent some time living here, but further examination is needed before definitive answers can be given. These are the main conclusions reached by the Dutch Wildlife Health Centre, Naturalis Biodiversity Center and Alterra Wageningen UR after having examined the cadaver and droppings found in the vicinity.
On 4 July of this year, a dead animal closely resembling a wolf was found on the roadside in Luttelgeest* in the North-East Polder. The incident was reported to WolvenInNederland, which then called in Alterra Wageningen UR. A few days later, the cadaver was taken to Utrecht for examination.
The Dutch Wildlife Health Centre (DWHC), which operates as part of Utrecht University, performed a post-mortem examination of the animal and carried out pathological tests into the cause of death and condition of the animal when it died. Naturalis Biodiversity Center and Alterra tested the animal’s DNA to determine the exact species of the wolf. Naturalis and VU University Amsterdam are carrying out isotope examinations to determine the country of origin of the she-wolf, and to isolate the area in which it spent the last months of its life. In addition, Alterra conducted a genetic and ecological investigation to determine the animal’s origins, partly based on tests on the identity, content and origins of (wolf) droppings found at various locations.
Examination of the cadaver carried out by DWHC shows that the wolf died from a trauma after a high-impact collision, probably with a car. The animal was a well-nourished she-wolf of at least eighteen months old. The stomach contained the remains of a young beaver, and tape worm was found in the gut. This would seem to indicate that the wolf had foraged in the wild. It was in a good general condition. Microscopic examination of the samples taken showed no evidence of the wolf having suffered from any underlying disease.
Extensive DNA tests have shown that the animal was a full blooded wolf. As the Netherlands does not have enough reference material on wolves and wolfdogs, research institutes in Germany and Italy were asked to help with the DNA tests. The results show that this was not a dog or a wolfdog hybrid, which is a cross between a wolf and a dog.
Naturalis and Alterra think it likely that the wolf concerned originated from the eastern part of Europe, close to the Russian border. This zone may extend from the Baltic States, via East-Poland, into Greece. More reference material is needed to be more precise about the animal’s origins, but this is not currently available in the European research institutes.
However, it is now certain that the Luttelgeest wolf did not come from a German or West-Polish pack or from Italy or Spain. It is also unlikely (but not impossible) that it came from the south of France or Switzerland.
WolvenInNederland and Alterra suspect that the wolf came to the Netherlands naturally and lived in the country for some time before being killed. They are, however, not entirely certain about this. Isotope examination on bloody muscle tissue, hairs and teeth from the wolf is being carried out by Naturalis in association with VU University Amsterdam in order to provide more certainty; the results are expected to be presented by the two institutes towards the end of August.
The cadaver shows absolutely no signs of having been transported into the Netherlands. There was no evidence of freezing, and no wear on the fur, soles of the paws or claws to suggest that it may have lived in captivity. Droppings that possibly came from a wolf have been found in the Kuinderbos in the North-East Polder, but DNA tests have been unable to prove that they were produced by the Luttelgeest wolf. The droppings contained traces of red deer and fox, which, together with the beaver found in the stomach, constitute prey found within a 50-kilometre radius of the location of the dead animal and the droppings.
* Strictly speaking, the wolf was found just beyond the village boundaries in Marknesse, a village next to Luttelgeest in the North-East Polder. The animal has gone down in history as the ‘Luttelgeest wolf’, so we are using the term ‘Luttelgeest wolf’ in our communication to avoid confusion.