BERLIN--The land of the Brothers Grimm is once again home to wolves. A century and a half after being wiped out by farmers and hunters in Germany, the species is breeding on the eastern edge of the country.
Although wolves have been spotted occasionally in the last 2 decades--usually after being killed by hunters or traffic--there have been no known permanent residents in Germany since the mid-1800s. But last year Saxony forestry officials noticed a pair living in a forested military training ground--probably migrants from an established population in western Poland. This summer the pair was accompanied by four yearlings--apparently the first wolves born in Germany in more than a century. Later two new pups appeared.
The training area, surrounded by a forested buffer zone, is "perfect habitat for the wolves, with lots of prey and no disturbance by other humans," says Frank Mörschel, a wildlife biologist with the World Wide Fund for Nature in Frankfurt am Main. He predicts the pack will expand its territory. Already the wolves are roaming in an area twice the size of the military installment, says forestry service official Rolf Röder.
So far there have been no conflicts between the wolves and the populace, says Röder. However, Mörschel says wildlife officials should be ready with a management plan as there are no protected areas large enough to sustain a wolf population in eastern Germany. "Public opinion can change very quickly" if too many livestock become wolf prey and the big bad wolf of Rottkäpchen (Little Red Riding Hood) lore comes alive again.