Paintball shots against wolves allowed in the Netherlands

Paintball shots against wolves allowed in the Netherlands

The Dutch judiciary on Wednesday approved paintball shooting against wolves in a national park in the Netherlands, which could pose a “threat to public safety.”

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The wolf is a protected species in Europe, meaning that disturbing or hunting it is prohibited without specific exemptions.

The province of Gelderland (centre) issued such an exemption at the end of 2022 and allowed law enforcement authorities to use paintball weapons. A presumably young wolf actually came too close to hikers in the Hoge Veluwe National Park (east).

The province ruled the animal was behaving “abnormally.” But the Faunabescherming (“Wild Animal Protection”) Foundation took the case to court and explained that the curiosity of young wolves was normal behavior.

An interim court decision suspended the permit for the use of paintball weapons, noting in particular that the province had “not adequately demonstrated the need for the exemption” and had also “failed to adequately research alternative solutions.”

In the end, however, the judges agreed with the authorities.

The court in Utrecht (centre) ruled that the authorities who submitted an opinion were “entitled to conclude that the abnormal behavior of at least one wolf constituted a threat to public safety”.

The wolf, which had exceptionally approached the human, gradually behaved “without signs of fear or submission,” according to the verdict.

The judges concluded that the “exemption” granted for shooting the animal with a paintball gun “outweighed the importance of not disturbing the wolves.” Other methods such as shouting, clapping, throwing stones or using pepper spray were considered ineffective.

Wolves have been making a slow comeback in Western Europe in recent years after overhunting, industrialization and urbanization led to their near extinction in the early 20th century.

However, this caused great tension, particularly with farmers.

The European Commission announced in December that it wanted to lower the level of protection for wolves in the EU because their excessive populations now pose a threat, particularly to livestock.