Gelderland province has been given the go-ahead to scare off over-familiar wolves with paintball pellets.
Midden-Nederland district court went back on an earlier decision to ban paintball deterrence after the provincial government came up with a more detailed explanation of its plan.
Nature conservation group Faunabescherming had challenged the province’s decision to exempt rangers in the Hoge Veluwe national park from the ban on shooting wolves, allowing them to fire paintball pellets if the animals approached humans too closely.
The province argued that paintball guns were the most effective and proportional way to deter wolves, but the court said the authorities had not provided sufficient evidence.
Gelderland commissioned a wolf behaviour expert who noted 14 instances of wolves losing their fear of humans, including one female who approached photographers, cyclists and walkers.
The expert also cited positive examples of paintballs being used to deter wolves Germany and in Yellowstone National Park in the US. Other methods such as shouting or using clapperboards only worked in the short term, while pepper spray risked damaging the wolves’ eyes.
Faunabescherming said it was “very disappointed” by the result and warned it would take legal action again if the province issued a new permit allowing rangers to shoot wolves.
“The protection of the wolf is very strict across the EU, which states that they must not be disturbed in any way,” spokesman Harm Niesen said.
He claimed that the problems were caused by visitors offering food to wolves to encourage them to come closer for photographs.
“The blame really lies wholly with the park’s rules not being enforced and the behaviour of visitors,” he said.
“The problem was really a people problem, not a wolf problem. Once the feeding stopped, the wolf reverted to its normal behaviour within the pack.”
The wolf that prompted the province’s response is believed to have died at the end of last year, Omroep Gelderland reported.
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