A court in the Netherlands has ruled that Dutch authorities can shoot with paintball guns wolves that could pose a danger to the public. On 24th January 2024, a court in Utrecht decided that the behavior of some of the wolves in De Hoge Veluwe National Park was “a serious threat to public safety”, and the authorities had to act.
The case of a female wolf who approached cyclists and walkers without fear raised concerns. The court said about this wolf, “The fact that the wolf seems to be less and less afraid of people does not mean that the animal can no longer become aggressive and bite.”
Other methods of scaring off the wolves such as shouting did not seem to work well, and using pepper spray was deemed too dangerous for the animals, so shooting paintball guns, which hurt but do not produce injuries, have been chosen instead before the method was legally challenged. The court ruled, “There is no other satisfactory solution than shooting the wolf with a paintball gun and … it is necessary in the interest of public safety.”
The wolf population in Europe, thanks to the strong protection in all countries, has been growing in the last few decades, reaching about 20,300 individuals now. However, the European Commission said in December 2023 that it wants to weaken the animals’ protected status allowing them to be hunted in some circumstances because of the risk they pose to the animals of animal agriculture. Even Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, might be in favor of this because she lost her captive horse last September after a wolf naturally did what wolves do in their territory (predate ungulates that cannot escape).