Court gives greenlight to paintballing pesky wolves in a Dutch national park

European Gray Wolf, Canis lupus lupus
(Image credit: Getty Images / Raimund Linke)

Hunting wolves is illegal in the Netherlands, but firing paintballs at them in one particular national park in the country isn’t, thanks to a recent court ruling.

But that doesn’t mean hikers can now roam the trails of the Hoge Veluwe National Park in the eastern province of Gelderland with your compressed air-powered armament and rainbow-hued pellets in the hopes of giving some luckless canid a multicolored makeover. 

It’s a measure that can only be used by park authorities to deal with the wolves, which are becoming increasingly emboldened and a threat to hikers and cyclists in the park. One female wolf has been singled out as a particular problem when it comes to wildlife safety in the park.

In its ruling, the Central Netherlands District Court said this wolf had been spotted approaching walkers and cyclists, displaying what it called “unnatural behavior.” An expert heard by the court said that the wolf was becoming “increasingly bolder” and posed a threat to public safety.

“The expert concludes that this unnatural behavior poses a serious threat to public safety. The fact that the wolf seems to be less and less afraid of people does not mean that the animal can no longer become aggressive and bite,” it added.

The decision was a victory for the authorities in Gelderland, which has been seeking the right to frighten the wild wolves in Hoge Veluwe National Park using paintball guns for a number of years now – in 2022 their initial request was turned down by the courts.

Two years on and the Dutch legal system has swapped allegiances. A wildlife protection organization that opposes the plan said that it would appeal the ruling.

The park, which is also is home to a world-renowned art gallery, the Kröller-Müller Museum, is also home to deer, mouflon sheep and wild boars, which have been repeatedly attacked by wolves in recent years.

The park recently posted footage on Instagram showing a confrontation between two packs of wolves on either side of a park fence.

Increasing wolf numbers are causing problems across Europe at the moment. Estimates suggest there are around 19,000 wolves in the 27 EU member countries, with possible populations of more than 1,000 in Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Poland, Romania and Spain. 

Wolves are currently protected under European Union Law, but in December, the European Commission proposed for downgrading their protection status from “strictly” to “merely” protected, in light of the wolves’ growing population.