I came across a headline recently about shocking wolf attacks in France. A sheep-raising couple lost 15 animals in a night. They had been willing to accept the loss of an occasional animal, but the carnage alarmed them badly.
This is exactly the type of incident throughout history that allowed our cultures to paint the wolf as evil. Of course the species represents a dangerous predator, but are incidents of large scale kills really evidence of violent rampages motivated by thrill seeking?
My internet research soon named the phenomenon of a mass kill as surplus killing. Wildlife biologists have observed it in wolves, and it happens more often during harsh winters with more snow. This was the case during a bad winter when wolves took down 19 elk. The wolves would expect to return to the carcasses and feed for as long as possible. Other predators and scavengers in the region would benefit from the food source as well. This suggests that wolves exploit opportunities to kill multiple prey animals so that they can stock up on food. A behavior that any human can relate to.
Livestock, like sheep, are especially vulnerable because the wolves discover that the sheep are easy pickings. Domestic sheep panic and run when confronted by wolves and become easy targets. They also leave their young exposed. The desire of the wolves to stock up on food would explain these mass livestock killings as well. Humans engage in mass livestock killings every day. Like real-world wolves, my werewolf hero Thal always has a reason when he kills someone too.
France caught in war with wolves
Furtive, wily and the animal of fairy tales, wolves fascinate nature lovers, but they raise fears among French sheep breeders who are trying to save their flocks. Amid debate in France on a future policy towards wolves the government is being asked to come to the aide of sheep farming.