The photo is not mine, but similar tracks were found in the village of Lucarelli below Le Ripe in the coldest part of last winter after it snowed heavily and stayed so cold that the snow lay on the ground for over a fortnight (a rarity here). The huge, unmistakeable paw prints were seen near our neighbours' smallholding, where sheep, cattle, pigs and geese are raised.
We had heard that wolves (Canis lupus lupus) had returned to Tuscany, that pairs were sighted near Ferrone (about 10k north of here, towards Florence), that the packs are monitored with electronic tags; but we had not believed they would roam around our part of Chianti. When we did speculate about creatures like bears and wolves, the reaction was mixed: there were those of us who relished the thought of such wild and fierce animals in our woods; others were less sanguine.
In a fascinating article from the Economist (link below) about the return of the wolf in Western Europe - and beyond, we learn that young wolves will wander as far as 1000k in search of a mate; so what was Lucarelli to a lone wolf from the Ferrone pack? A doddle!
So we may have more sightings this winter, may hear them howl in our woods. The deer will have to reckon with them, but as the article points out, the deer have overrun this area; a natural predator is perhaps needed.
From the Economist: The wolf returns - Call of the wild After millennia spent exterminating them, humanity is protecting wolves. Numbers have risen again—and so have ancient resentments Dec 22nd 2012
See also this fascinating, thought-provoking article - and breathtaking photography: http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/16/in-the-shadows-of-wolves-and-man/?ref=global-home
Another interesting article on wolves from the NYRB blog; it seems like the winter has brought on talk of wolves...http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2013/jan/22/lost-wolves-new-england/
Here is a recent video from the Italian newspaper, La Repubblica, a 4 minute glimpse of the family lives of wolves in the Tosco-Emilian Alps: Wild Families
Now we're waiting to hear that the brown bear (Ursus arctos marsicanus) has returned to Chianti.
|Bear paw print found on Belluno (Dolomites) ski slope on New Year's day|
|quite a cutie really|