09.01.2019 change 09.01.2019

Mysłajek: Wolves are not pets, they behave abnormally if you feed them

Photo: Fotolia Photo: Fotolia

Wild wolves are afraid of people. The problems start when people begin to feed them. Wolf pups brought up by people, as well as wolves fed for the needs of photographers at luring places behave abnormally. They get used to humans and no longer avoid them.

"I have been studying wolves for over 20 years. And I have never had a dangerous encounter with these predators" - says Dr. Robert Mysłajek, a scientist from the Faculty of Biology of the University of Warsaw and vice-president of the Association for Nature" Wolf". He emphasises that wolves avoid people. "For me as a scientist, this is not a comfortable situation, because usually I can not observe them directly. They are very careful and try to avoid us. We are a dangerous species for them. Even if we do not shoot at them, we contribute to their deaths. Every year, dozens of wolves die in Poland under the wheels of cars and in snares" - he says.

People sometimes try to tame wolves. This ends tragically for both animals and the people keeping them. "There are cases of taking wolf pups out of their dens and taming them. Such wolves socialize with man. But after some time, these animals grow up and start acting unruly. Unable to handle them, people release them back into the forest" - says the biologist. He explains that such wolves, accustomed to humans, will not join wolf families. They will look for food near human residences. They can be a problem, be intrusive.

"Such an animal will no longer fulfil its role in nature. It should spend the rest of its life in a closed facility; it can not be restored to the natural environment anymore. In the 1990s, there was the famous case of two wolves Kazan and Viki. They were taken from the den as pups, and then released near Białowieża. The animals would approach people. They had to be caught again and locked in pens" - says Dr. Mysłajek.

Dr. Mysłajek and members of Association "Wolf" often intervene in unusual situations related to wolves. "We were called several times to puppies that were taken from dens. If it was possible, we helped find their parental group and restore them to the natural environment. But if they were already socialized with people, we had to find a closed facility, where they would live their lives. One of them went to the Białowieża National Park Show Reserve" - he says.

In 2018, there were also reports of two wolves that attacked people. One in the Noteć Forest, the other in the Bieszczady Mountains, reminds the wolf expert. Pursuant to the decision of the General Director for Environmental Protection, they were culled, followed by autopsy and epidemiological and genetic studies.

The wolf from the Lubusz province had fatty internal organs and additionally tartar. Each is unusual in wild wolves, and happens more often to dogs fed with carbohydrate-rich foods. In addition, genetic testing of this wolf was carried out. "Genetic studies performed at the Institute of Genetics and Biotechnology of the University of Warsaw showed that this individual was not related to any known family of wolves from the Noteć Forest" - Dr. Mysłajek sums up the results.

When the behaviour of the wolf was analysed, it turned out that it was not afraid of approaching human residences. It had been fed by people for a few months - it often used food thrown out by local residents. "We suspect that it was taken from its den as a pup, fed, and then thrown out into a forest where it could not find its place. The research is ongoing, we are still collecting samples to determine the origin of this wolf. In fact, we should try to identify the person who contributed to this unusual behaviour of the wolf" - he says.

The Nature Conservation Act prohibits breeding or keeping wild animals under species protection (and the wolf is a strictly protected species). Individuals must have a permit to do so.

The second source of the problem is that wolves get used to a permanent source of food provided by humans. In Bieszczady, there are commercial luring places for photographers - places, to which predators: bears and wolves are lured by bait. This is conducive to the situation, in which food conditioning occurs. "These smart animals associate people with food provided in luring places" - says the natural scientist.

According to some hypotheses, the wolf from Bieszczady, which attacked people, used such luring places.

"We can not treat wild animals the way we treat our pets. It is unacceptable that someone feeds animals in the forest thinking that they will behave like domestic dogs. These animals should behave as nature wants - and not as we want. An idealistic approach to animals is a mistake. It`s not a Disney cartoon, wild animals do not approach orphans and rub against them in the forest. They are not pets, they are wild predators that play an important role in the ecosystem. And that is what they should remain. And we should let them be wild animals, and not domesticate or lure them at all costs" - concludes Dr. Mysłajek.

PAP - Science in Poland, Ludwika Tomala

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