Video captures killing of one of the first wolves in Denmark in more than 200 years

As researchers in Denmark film one of the first wolves to return to the country in 200 years, they unwittingly capture the moment it is shot dead by a poacher.

The shooting death of a rare wild wolf in Denmark has sparked outrage in Europe and around the world

One of the first wolves to be seen in Denmark in more than 200 years — not the one pictured here — was killed by poachers. (Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
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Two researchers in Denmark were filming a rare wild wolf as it jogged across an empty field, when a shot rang out across the pasture and the wolf collapsed, dead.

In the video, it registers as little more than a faint "pop, but the fatal gunshot has sparked outrage around the world. 

The wolf belonged to a small pack that had just recently made its way to Denmark — the first wild wolves to settle in the country in 200 years.

Max Rossberg, chair of the European Wilderness Society, spoke with As it Happens host Carol Off from Tamsweg, Austria.

Here is part of their conversation.

Mr. Rossberg, when you watch that video of this wolf being killed, what goes through your mind?

Outrage. Disappointment. Frustration.

The wolf in Europe is a strictly-protected animal. And it's one of the biggest success stories we have had of nature conservation. And there are still people who, when they see this animal, have the urge to take out a gun and kill it.

How threatened are they? How large a wolf population would we find in Denmark at this point?

Denmark is a country that has just been populated by wolves. The wolf has survived in Europe for thousands of years, but mainly in the southern part — Romania, Bulgaria, and Italy and Spain. 

Why kill somebody just because we used to believe in Little Red Riding Hood?- Max Rossberg , European Wilderness Society

And central Europe was eradicated, brutally, until the fall of the Iron Curtain. That Curtain did not only keep back people, but it kept back wolves as well.

And they started wandering west. And we now have about 20,000 wolves. They are on the rise. 

They're living with us peacefully and there's not been a single case where wolf and human had had a negative interaction.

And the one in Denmark was a success story, because it was one of the last [countries] where wolves have not established themselves yet.

Max Rossberg is the chairman of the European Wilderness Society. (Submitted by Max Rossberg)

You said watching this man shoot the wolf brought outrage to you. But did it surprise you, given how passionate people seem to be about wolves?

Every kind of survey shows that more than 70, 75 per cent of the European population is for the return of the wolf.

Hunters only make up 1.62 per cent of the population. [They] obviously have a different attitude about these animals.

This is an illegal poaching. This man will go to jail. We knew this would happen, because politicians close to these farming communities have been preaching the 'four Ss' — you see a wolf, you shoot a wolf, you get a shovel, and you keep your mouth shut. 

We knew about it. Now we have evidence.

You say that 75 per cent of people support the wolf return. But those are mostly people in urban situations, are they not?

No, actually not. If you look at the surveys in detail, you will see that the support is a little bit lower in the rural areas, but the support is all across the board.

And I think this has to do with the change of attitude toward these animals. We suddenly have these animals right in front of our doorstep: the wolf, the bear, the beaver, the otter, the coyote — or as we call them, 'golden jackals'

Europe already has 20,000 wolves. Twenty-five thousand bears. One-hundred-five thousand golden jackals. And there are no incidents.

So people are recognizing we can live with these animals together. And why not? Why kill somebody just because we used to believe in Little Red Riding Hood?

Written by Ashley Mak and Kevin Ball. Interview produced by Ashley Mak. Q&A edited for length and clarity.

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