Different emotions had flared in 1994 when two or three dispersers arrived in the Czech Republic's Beskydy Mountains from Slovakia on the east. Within a few years, the wolf population had grown to ten wolves in two packs. Even though several generations of villagers had lived without wolves around - the last wolf was killed in the Beskydy Mountains 80 years earlier - unrealistic fear and ingrained hatred of the animals had survived. Those emotions, Josefa Volfova from Friends of the Earth told Radio Prague, provoked the locals to kill all the wolves.
The death of those dispersers led to the formation of wolf patrols. One of the goals of these patrols, Volfova said in November of 2014, is to "provide and spread objective information about wolves, because it is very important for people to know that these animals do not present a danger to them, that they are generally shy and afraid of people."
Patrols have monitored the return of wolves (and lynxes and bears) in the Beskydy, Javorniky, and Sumava Mountains for 15 years. The volunteers who staff the patrols search for wolf signs. They collect samples of scat and hair which are used for DNA analysis that provides important information about returning wolves. The volunteers also travel to areas where poaching is suspected and leave notices warning that wolf patrols monitor the area. "In other words," explained Volfova, "we let poachers know that we are here and want to protect these animals."
The Czech Republic's growing wolf population reflects the animal's resurgence across the continent; around 12,000 wolves now roam Europe. Experts cite two reasons for this increase: wolves are protected by law (the Bern Convention and the Habitats Directive) in much of Europe, and residents vacate rural areas which then draw wild prey and hungry wolves.
I would add a third reason: concerned citizens - like those in the Czech Republic - willing to replace fear and hatred with education and protection.
Rick Lamplugh is a wolf advocate and author of the Amazon Bestseller "In the Temple of Wolves: A Winter's Immersion in Wild Yellowstone." Available as eBook or paperback or as a signed copy from the author.