A swiss wolf was illegaly shot by a hunter in Hungary after a record journey

A wolf named M237, who was two years old, left his pack in the canton of Graubünden, Switzerland, and traveled to Hungary through Italy and Austria, crossing the Alps and even swimming across the Danube. This GPS-collared wolf was tracked for 1,900 kilometers, making it the longest recorded journey by a wolf in Europe. During his journey, M237 passed through large cities like Innsbruck, Vienna, and Budapest, eventually reaching the North Hungarian Mountains. But his epic journey tragically ended at the border of Hungary and Slovakia, near Hidasnémeti, where he was allegedly shot by a hunter in April.

After M237’s GPS collar sent unusual information, the Hungarian Police launched a search operation and found the collar, which was cut off from the animal, in the River Hernád close to Hidasnémeti. According to media sources, the police have already identified the potential culprit, a hunter, and are conducting criminal proceedings for nature destruction.

“Cases like this illustrate well that sharing our landscapes with large carnivores still poses serious challenges. Managing human-wildlife conflict towards coexistence is one of the main solutions to cut down wildlife crimes“, says Dávid Sütő, Large Carnivore Project Manager at WWF Hungary.

The grey wolf was once widespread in Hungary, but became possibly extinct in the first decades of the 20th century. It reappeared in the 1970s and became a protected species in 1993. Since 2001, it has been strictly protected in Hungary. The grey wolf occurs mostly in the North Hungarian Mountains in Zemplén, in the Aggtelek karst, in the Bükk Mountains, and wolves have been seen in the Börzsöny Mountains as well. The exact number of packs has not been identified yet due to the lack of monitoring systems, but experts estimate there are around 40-70 individuals. Wolves are considered as settled in Hungary, and pups have been photographed by camera traps, so the species has already successfully breed in the country.

Large carnivores are strictly protected species in Hungary. Killing or trapping them is illegal and punishable by law, with a maximum possible penalty of three years in jail. Unfortunately, in recent years, some large carnivores have become victims of illegal actions, especially wolves.

One of the most famous cases, which ended with a court sentence, was the illegal killing of a brown bear on May 10th 2014, shot by hunters in Nógrád county in the North Hungarian Mountains. The animal did not threaten any human lives, and the hunters who shot the animal had official hunting licence. Photos were taken of the dead animal, its skull was prepared as a trophy and the pelt was salted to be further processed.

The Hunting and Fishing Department at the Government Office in Nógrád county quickly responded to the illegal activity and withdrew the hunting license of those accused. Altogether, the county police accused 11 people for participating in the illegal activity. The issue was taken to court, backed up by the representatives of the hunting community (e.g. Hungarian Hunters’ National Chamber – OMVK and Hungarian Hunters’ Association – OMVV) to show an example of how illegal killings are treated in the country. According to their statement, the illegal killing of the bear “exhausted the concept of poaching and stealing and therefore should be punished with a jail sentence”.

Three years later, in 2017, the court managed to reach a decision: the chief and second accused received suspended sentence along with financial penalties and prohibition from hunting.

Image credit by Gruppe Wolf Schweiz