Charges pressed against mayor, farmer for killing wolf after bite

Animal rights organization De Faunabescherming is pressing charges against a Wapse farmer who allegedly got bitten by a wolf on Sunday and the mayor who ordered the animal shot and killed. According to the organization, this was not “an attack by a wolf on a human, but by a human on a wolf.” The mayor “had no right” to have the wolf shot, De Faunabescherming said.

The sheep farmer in the Drenthe village of Wapse allegedly got bitten by a wolf on Sunday morning. According to regional media, the man was trying to chase the animal away with a pitchfork when it bit him. He went for treatment in the hospital and is recovering at home.

According to De Faunabescherming, the farmer was in the wrong. “Anyone unwise enough to attack a predator with a pitchfork and a shovel can expect the animal to feel threatened and defend itself.”

After the incident, the authorities found the wolf hiding under solar panels in a meadow, according to De Faunabescherming. “The protocol to judge whether a wolf has attacked people and has to be killed was not followed at all. The mayor had no right to order anyone to shoot the wolf. The police should have known that and verified before firing.”

Mayor Rikus Jager of Westerveld, which covers Wapse, said on Sunday that he had no choice but to order the animal shot, according to RTL Nieuws. “We tried to call an expert, but that didn’t work out so early. Insofar that expertise was available, we consulted it. But together, we concluded that there was only one choice.”

A mayor can order a wolf killed if the animal poses an acute threat, but only after first trying to chase it away. Jager said opening the gate so the wolf could escape was not an option. He considered it too risky because “many people” cycle through the street on Sunday mornings.

Celebrity biologist Freek Vonk urged against jumping to conclusions, posting a picture of himself kissing a wolf on Instagram. “We don’t know exactly what happened yet, so we must be reluctant to talk about an attack,” he wrote. “The situation is very exceptional because wolves are normally extremely shy and withdrawn animals.”

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A post shared by Prof. dr. Freek Vonk (@freekvonk)

According to Vonk, there have been only 14 recorded wolf attacks in Europe and North America between 2002 and 2020. “So that’s over an 18-year period. When you consider that there are almost 60,000 wolves in North America and 15,000 in Europe, all of which share their living space with millions of people, you can conclude that it is really very rare to be attacked by a wolf.”

If a wolf did bite the farmer, this would be the first incident of a wolf biting a human since the animal’s return to the Netherlands.

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