Over the past few years, wild wolves have returned to a number of former habitats in Europe, including Flanders and the Netherlands, and despite opposition from some groups, they are now a protected species in most places.
While farming groups are mainly concerned about wolves as predators of livestock, others are concerned about wolves that are becoming too tame, especially in national parks, where opportunities for interaction with humans are greatest, especially as some visitors try to get close to take pictures, and use food as a lure.
In a move that's caused controversy between animal-lovers and officials, park supervisors in the Netherlands' Gelderland province have been authorized to shoot 'problematic wolves' with paintball games in hopes that the painful sting will cause the wolves to redevelop fear and distrust of humans. Officials in Flanders are also considering the proposal.
"By hitting it with paintball bullets, the wolf is going to re-associate people with danger: a paintball hitting the wolf is not going to injure the animal but it is going to give it a pain stimulus," Dries Gorissen, wolf policy coordinator, told Het Belang van Limburg. "In our opinion, this is a very good measure to teach the young animal to be scared of humans. The unnatural behaviour may still be solved this way," he added.