How common are wolf attacks in Europe

Is the wolf dangerous to humans?

The image of the wolf, who needs untouched wilderness and spacious deserted areas, does not correspond to the reality in Germany. Wolves in the cultivated landscape are no more dangerous than their conspecifics who live in deserted areas or who are hunted. There are wolf areas that are similarly densely populated with people to the wolf areas in Germany, and in which there is also no (legal) hunt for wolves, for example in Italy and Poland. In these areas, too, there is no evidence that wolves lose their caution towards humans. The same applies to wolves who grow up in national parks with a high number of visitors and who have no negative experience with humans.

It is therefore part of the normal behavior of wolves that they occasionally run along in sight of inhabited buildings during the day, sometimes cross villages at night or look for food on the edge of the village. Experience shows that such behavior generally does not pose a threat to people. Damage can be successfully limited by means of preventive measures. Nevertheless: safety first! The DBBW has developed evaluation criteria to evaluate the approach behavior of wolves to humans and the dangers that may result from this behavior.

The study "The fear of wolves: A review of wolf attacks on humans" published in 2002 by the Norwegian Institute for Natural Research (NINA) provides comprehensive information on the potential dangers posed by wolves. Reports on wolf attacks on people and their causes in Scandinavia, Central Europe, Asia and North America were compiled and evaluated. Accordingly, attacks by wolves on humans are very rare. In the past there have been only a few cases in which healthy wolves attacked or even killed a person. Wolf attacks on humans can mainly be traced back to three causes: rabies, provocation and food conditioning.

Rabies, a fatal viral disease that was considered the main cause of wolf attacks in earlier times, has been eradicated in Germany since 2008 and is also considered to be largely fought in neighboring countries by immunizing the fox. The provocation of a wolf is also a rather unlikely cause of danger under today's circumstances, since, according to the study, it mainly affected animal owners who - while trying to protect their livestock from attack - cornered wolves with clubs or pitchforks or hunters who Took puppies out of the den.

The most likely cause of dangerous behavior by wolves towards humans in our current cultural landscape is a strong habituation to human beings combined with positive stimuli such as feeding (food conditioning). Food conditioned wolves differ from other wolves in that they are interested in people because of positive stimuli and actively seek their proximity. If the expected positive stimuli (e.g. food) fail to appear, this can lead to the affected wolves developing intrusive, brazen and, in the worst case, aggressive behavior.

To avoid misunderstandings: All wild animals, including wolves, that live in cultivated landscapes have to get used to human presence to a certain extent (habituation). You learn to tolerate people and human activities to a certain extent. Such habituation does not in itself lead to problematic behavior. If wolves have made the experience that the perception of human presence proceeds without negative consequences, they usually react cautiously, but not extremely shyly, to encounters with people and vehicles and usually trot away without excessive haste. Wolves who have neither positive nor negative experiences with humans remain suspicious of them and do not actively approach each other. Due to their curiosity and naivety, young wolves can sometimes have a shorter escape distance from humans than adult wolves.

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