First wolf spotted in Belgium in more than a century

Video footage taken by the VRT's TV programme "Dieren in nesten" in the Ardennes shows a wolf dragging away a dead sheep. A French expert has confirmed that it's indeed a wolf. The last time a wolf was seen in Belgium, was in the late 19th century.

In July, 8 sheep were killed at a farm near Gedinne (Namur province). All the victims showed the typical throat injuries after being attacked by a predator. It was first thought that a lynx was responsible. A team of the VRT television programme "Dieren in nesten" (animals in trouble) installed an infra-red night camera on a secluded spot and dragged one of the dead sheep to the place.

A couple of days later, camera footage showed how during the night an animal that looked like a wolf approached the bait and next dragged it away to the nearest woodlands.

"No doubt: this a real wolf we have seen"

The team of "Dieren in nesten" was not sure whether it was a real wolf or just a wolf dog that could be seen and called on a French expert for help. Eric Marboutin was sure: it was a real wolf that had been spotted. He referred to a number of details which mark the difference between wolves and wolf dogs, like a short, hanging tail and colour patterns on his fur.

Moreover, the animal behaved like a real wolf. "It was very shy and cautious when approaching the sheep. It next puts its jaws in the body, which weighs between 40 and 50 kilograms, and drags it away almost effortlessly. Only a wolf has that kind of strength", Eric Marboutin explains.

To be 100 percent sure, DNA research should be done on hair or excrements, but this was not possible as these could not be found.

Some facts and figures about wolves

  • Contrary to what is being told in fairy tales, wolves do not pose a danger to human beings. In fact, they are very shy and they will quickly run away if people appear at the scene. However, sheep and other animals should watch out.
  • Normally, a wolf kills its prey, eats a bit and leaves it behind, only to return the next day(s) to finish his meal. This explains why 8 sheep were killed in Gedinne: the farmers made the mistake to remove the dead body each time, which is why the wolf killed another sheep when it returned.
  • In Belgium, it's more than a century ago that a wolf was spotted. The last time was in 1898 when a wolf was killed in Virton. Now, they are a protected species.
  • Wolves move on quickly, sometimes covering distances of 30 miles or more on one day.
  • "Dieren in nesten" will broadcast the documentary about the wolf in January next year.