Germany Struggles with the Return of the Wolf

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There was a lot of blood on the pasture a week ago. Silvia and Klaus Münster are sitting at a table covered with oilcloth. There are plastic flowers in pots lining the steps leading up to their house in Steinitz, a town in Saxony. The smell of chicken feces is in the air and there are chickens parading around the yard, clucking away. A rooster is crowing so loudly that Silvia Münster has to raise her voice to be heard.

"It's not a sight you can easily forget," she says, with her arms crossed. "There wasn't much left of the Cameroon sheep" -- nothing but scattered body parts.

The Münsters probably won't even be compensated for the four animals they lost in the massacre, because the pasture wasn't completely fenced in. "We didn't expect them to get through the reeds along the ditch," says Silvia Münster. "The people who showed up seemed to think it was funny. It was just an invitation to dinner, the woman said, the one with the dog."

The woman with the dog was Ilka Reinhardt, who investigates sheep killings to determine whether a wolf was to blame or just a feral dog. Her Longhair Weimaraner is trained to follow wolf tracks. He found parts of the sheep's bodies that had been dragged away, leading Reinhardt to conclude that it was indeed a wolf.

"It's outrageous, the notion that the wolf is more important than people," says Silvia Münster. She is not a fan of Reinhardt and her colleagues. "They're the ones who brought him here, the wolf, for scientific purposes, for observation purposes!" She refuses to be dissuaded from believing this theory of wolf reintroduction -- one that is widespread in the Lausitz region.

And then her taciturn husband speaks up: "I'm not afraid of the wolf. I'd beat him to death."

THE FRIENDS OF WOLVES

The gray predator's biggest fan club, the "Society for the Protection of Wolves," has about 1,000 members, while another group, the "Friends of Wolves Living in the Wild," has 200. That makes more than 10 wolf protectors per wolf in Germany, not to mention organizations like the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU) and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). The officials of these organizations travel around Germany in the hope of changing negative views of the predators.

On this particular evening, the Society for the Protection of Wolves is holding an event in the state of Saarland, which the friends of Canis lupus refer to as a "state expecting the arrival of the wolf." The event is an informational gathering in the Neuhaus barn, a cozy place with rustic walls and wooden tables, north of the state capital Saarbrücken.

The environment minister, a member of the Green Party and the head of the state forestry agencies are there. Hunters were invited, but none showed up. Instead, a group of like-minded people listens to a presentation by a representative of the Society for the Protection of Wolves, who spends two hours raving about the wolf as a fairy tale-like creature. He also mentions the "really cute children's books" his organization sells to instill an affection for the animals among little children.

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