Belgium revokes hunting licences as hopes rise of first wolf cubs in 100 years

James Crisp
August and Noella, Flanders' two wolves, in nocturnal footage recorded by the Flemish Nature and Woodland Agency. - INBO/ANB

Belgian authorities have revoked hunting licences in a bid to save a kangaroo-killing widower wolf, amid hopes Belgium could see its first cubs in more than 100 years. 

August is the second wolf to have crossed into Belgian territory after his mate Naya, a she-wolf, became the first wild wolf in the country for over a century in January 2018.

Naya, who was pregnant, has been missing since May last year and is presumed dead. Conservationists accused hunters of killing her and have offered a £27,000 reward for information about her death. 

August and Naya attacked sheep, which is suspected to have motivated the slaying. On Christmas Eve, a pet kangaroo was eaten and another injured in Balen in the province of Antwerp after August crawled under fencing.

Over Christmas, a third wolf, dubbed Noella after the season, entered Belgium. Footage recorded by the Flemish Agency for Nature and Woodland this week proved that August and Noella had found each other.  

“The pair appears to be doing well together,” said the agency's Eddy Ulenaers, “It is likely that they will mate for life.”

Hopes are high that Belgium will soon be welcoming its first wolf cubs since the animal was hunted to extinction in 1897. Mating season is anytime between January and April. 

“If Noella becomes pregnant by next month, then she will give birth to between four and eight cubs by May,” Mr Ulenaers said.

Belgian authorities have swung into action to ensure there is not a repeat of Naya’s suspicious disappearance.

The Belgian army controls land in the wolves’ territory in the province of Limburg and has introduced a hunting ban. The area, close to the Dutch border, is being patrolled by the rangers with military support.

Three hunting trips which had been approved by local authorities have also been revoked.

Environmentalists have demanded stronger legal protection for wolves and harsher penalties for killing them. The Flemish regional government has promised to develop a wolf policy.  

Belgium was the only country in continental Europe to have not reported a wild wolf sighting until Naya travelled 310 miles in ten days from Germany, through the Netherlands and into eastern Belgium in 2018. 

The species is recolonising Western Europe after disappearing because of hunting, growing cities and industrialisation.