Nature photographer Theo Grüntjens keeps making amazing discoveries on his forays through meadows and forests. Like this time when he suddenly sees wild boars chasing wolves. In an interview with FOCUS Online, he tells of his special encounter.
At first Theo Grüntjens thought he was watching a few wolves chasing wild boar again. After all, the piglets from last year are among the classic prey of the predators. But shortly thereafter, the nature photographer is taught otherwise: Wolves don’t hunt wild boar – it’s the other way around.
“That was spectacular,” says the forester in an interview with FOCUS Online. “First I saw one wolf, a short time later two. They ran into the forest, then out again. Finally, a third one came along,” he describes what he observed a few days ago on the edge of the Lower Saxony heath.
“Then it wasn’t long before the first wild boar came running after me. And while I was still thinking: ‘Ah, the wolves are probably hunting a young wild boar’, ten more suddenly appeared.” The animals would have raised their bristles on their backs. “It made them look a lot older and more intimidating,” explains Grüntjens.
“The young wolves were simply overwhelmed. Again and again the wild boars tried to drive them apart. And they finally succeeded.” A courageous wolf, which had stopped for a moment, was then attacked. “The dust whirled up, the wild boars were so aggressively chasing the wolves. And in the end they had no choice but to flee with their heads ducked.”
What the wolf expert describes here may surprise some. After all, many see wolves as dangerous predators. But such attacks are not that rare, says Grüntjens. “The wolf is cautious from the ground up,” emphasizes the forester. “He only attacks where he’s sure he won’t get hurt. Because if a wolf is injured, it means it can no longer hunt. And if it can no longer hunt, it starves to death.” That is why the animals tactically plan very precisely whether they dare to attack when there is little threat of resistance.
He observes again and again that the wolves are attacked by supposed prey. “If the wild boar agree, wolves don’t stand a chance.” Deer also sometimes attacked them, injuring them with their front hooves. He often sees one or two animals limping in the pack, says Grüntjens. “Most of the time, that doesn’t come from the fact that they were hit or shot. Rather, these are mostly injuries from other animals, ”explains the forester. “That’s the reality – the wolf life is hard.”
Grüntjens has been observing wolves for more than fifteen years. In 2006 he was “tremendously lucky” to see the first wolf in Lower Saxony. “Then I stayed.”
In Germany, the wolf is spreading more and more. “The population doubles every three years,” explains the forester. A certain saturation effect only sets in in areas that are already heavily occupied in a few federal states.
However, Grüntjens believes it is wrong to speak of an overpopulation of wolves. “The wolf density in the areas usually remains the same. A pack of eight to ten wolves on average lives in an area of 200 to 300 square kilometers. And that doesn’t change either. Instead, new areas are opening up in which eight to ten wolves live in this area again.”
The fact that the wolf population is increasing has consequences for both hunters and foresters.
Effects for Hunters:
“The hunters see the wolves as competitors,” explains Grüntjens. “Because the hunter is only allowed to kill in the forest what is already in abundance. And of course the wolf also feeds on this abundance.” This means that there is less prey for the hunters – but in most areas it is “not particularly dramatic”.
Consequences for the forester:
For the foresters, however, the spread of wolves would have extreme consequences. “They change the behavior of all other animals in the forest,” explains Grüntjens. “The wolves make them move back and forth instead of staying in the same area as usual. The pressure on the plants to browse is distributed over a larger area and relieves the vegetation.” However, the problem with grazing animals in open country is still a major challenge.
However, the forest ranger does not hold grudges against the animals. “With all the many problems they cause us, I’m always enthusiastic about them,” he says. “I’ve made so many observations over the past few years – and almost every one of them has been spectacular. They surprise me again and again. How they react, how they treat each other. How they play and cuddle with each other – just like we know from our pets. They are maybe a bit bigger than foxes and lynxes and therefore more frightening. But they are also immensely fascinating.”