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Wolves find each other, pups could follow
As expected, August and Noella have found each other. Based on nocturnal footage recorded by the Flemish Agency for Nature and Woods, the two wolves have paired up.
The male August has been roaming Limburg for about 18 months and had previously paired with Naya. The latter made headlines in 2018 when she became the first wolf to call Flanders home in 150 years.
Naya was last seen on footage last spring, and she was clearly pregnant. She was expected to give birth just before the summer, but she disappeared. There has been no sign of her or any cubs since, and environmental experts are certain that she was killed by hunters. She and August had been responsible for attacks on sheep in the area.
Now Flanders is getting another chance to host the birth of wolf cubs, the first in a century-and-a-half. A third wolf was spotted just last month and named Noella in celebration of the time of the year. It was suspected that she and August would locate each other and mate.
“The pair appears to be doing well together,” said Eddy Ulenaers of the Agency for Nature and Woodland. “It is likely that they will mate for life.”
Mating season is anywhere from January to April. “If Noella becomes pregnant by next month, then she will give birth to between four and eight cubs by May,” said Ulenaers. Wolf populations tend to control themselves, so the number of cubs will depend on food supplies, he explained.
According to lawyer Hendrik Schoukens, who is specialised in environmental law, Flanders must make some immediate and clear decisions about wildlife policy in order to stop “the sad experience of Naya” from happening again.
In an opinion piece in VRT NWS, he says that the region needs a wolf policy and has needed one for many years as it was clear from the population growth in Germany that it was only a matter of time before wolves would cross the border.
While plans were quickly assembled when Naya arrived in Flanders, there is no long-term vision, says Schoukens. Flanders needs concrete policies on how to assist wildlife to survive in an area where natural areas are fractured – with eco-ducts, for instance – and how to create infrastructure to protect livestock.
And “due to unclear legislation, the penalties for killing a wolf are significantly less severe than for other protected species,” says Schoukens, which is “negligent” and “symbolises our needlessly complex nature legislation.”
Flanders should also introduce legal protection in the core area where the wolf is currently present, he says, “such as making it a Natura 2000 site”.
Photo: It didn’t take long after Noella’s arrival to spot her together with August
©Courtesy Natuur en Bos