Wolves are largely a protected species in Israel and are not creatures that one would expect to find in this part of the world. However, a sub-species of the northern grey wolf, originating in India is actually thriving on the Golan Heights, causing local farmers and cattle herders to literally be at war with these furry cousins of domestic dogs.
In fact, the wolves have so much lost their fear of humans that they are often seen coming into Golan Heights towns and settlements to raid garbage bins in search of food. They are also something to be feared due to the risk of spreading rabies and other diseases as well as the danger of their snatching domestic animals and even small children from campsites as part of their food search.
Golan Heights wolves are larger than a smaller cousin Canis Lupis Arab, that lives in Israel’s southern desert region and stand around 26 inches (65 cm) high and weighing around 45 pounds (20.5 kg) fully grown. Golan wolves weigh around 70 pounds (32 kg) when fully grown. Despite being larger, Golan wolves are often found living happily in minefields that are still considered as unsafe for humans to enter into.
Although the wolves are a protected species, the Israeli government has been paying a bounty of NS 2,000 or $500 for each one that strays out of its protected “conflict” area. Farmers complain that they lose at least 200 cattle and sheep annually to these predators, whose light weight prevents them from exploding still lethal mines. Wolves are the largest predators in their Golan habitat; and normally prey on animals such as gazelles, wild pigs and small mammals like rabbits and hyrax (a small rodent-like animal that is actually related to elephants). But hoofed livestock are often on their dinner menus as well; especially when wild game is scarce.
Besides occasionally shooting them, other measures such as illegal poisoning are used to control the wolf population. Nature authority staff members are trying to find ways to keep the wolves under control without having to resort to killing them. Being highly intelligent and having lost much of their fear of man, their only real enemy, the conflict between man and wolf appears to be an ongoing problem, with a viable solution still to be found.
Read more on endangered wolves and other animal species:
Photo of Arab wolf on the prowl: Times on Israel/Wikipedia commons