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I saw a wolf!

November 22, 2012

A few days ago I saw a wolf! This may not be big news, but let me explain.

I was born and raised in the interior north of Portugal, and I always had curiosity about wildlife and our natural heritage, which lead me to becoming a biologist. Since childhood I’ve been fishing, hiking, kayaking, mountain biking and doing some serious bird watching around here. Altogether, I spent a considerable amount of my life outdoors in a variety of places in the region that allowed me to had contact with a great variety of animals. Some of them where very good observations of a certain behaviour like a golden eagle mating or an otter eating right in front of me, others just a fleeting shape or a speck in the binoculars. All around here, without travelling a lot, but the only species that was missing, was the wolf, and my expectations where really getting low…

The population of wolves in Portugal suffered a huge setback in the 50’s and 60’s because of human persecution, leading almost to extinction in the central and southern areas of Portugal. Now it is slowly recovering and increasing in numbers.

There are lots of stories from local shepherds and hunters that have seen wolves, but just a few of them are reliable. I myself have already seen wolves in other places, but here in the home vicinity just some possible footprints and droppings. Well, this time I saw one, almost by accident!

Driving on a secondary road in the end of the day still with some light and the sunset at the horizon I noticed something on the side of the road, 300 m ahead, slowly moving between the shrubs. I slowed down, thinking to myself “It’s a fox” – and then the “fox” walked to the side of the road and I noticed it was something bigger. I still found it hard to believe that it could be a wolf, though.

I tried to stop the car, but I was too close, I had scared it away. He saw the car and crossed the road running, but now there was no doubt about it – the shape, size, colour, and behaviour – it was a wolf, for sure. Right there in front of me, in my home region, in a place that I cross several times a month. Now every time I go there, I drive really slow and look everywhere, hoping to see it again.

Seems a small thing, but I was really happy with that. For me it was a big thing. A huge one. When I shared the information with some friends studying wolf distribution in central Portugal, they congratulated me and asked: “Was he fat?”

The comeback of the wolf and others emblematic species is happening right now. We must keep it up and push forward, it will be great if we can get good results in a lifetime.

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