Rangers catch escaped Canadian wolf in France

·2-min read

PARIS (Reuters) - French rangers caught one of several black Canadian wolves that escaped from a nature park during flooding last month, authorities said, but they are increasingly concerned the others might interbreed with grey European wolves.

One of the wolves was tranquilized with a dart gun overnight, after the first was recaptured in mid-October, but five others and one white Arctic wolf are still roaming the remote, hilly forests close to the Italian border in southern France.

The wolves escaped as their enclosure was destroyed during flooding in early October.

Eric Hansen, head of the Mediterranean Biodiversity Office, said the wolves needed to be caught soon in order to prevent mating with local European wolves and mixing genes.

"If they can survive in nature here, we do not want them to interact with local wolves. Introducing alien species in an environment leads to catastrophe," he said.

He said the wolves, born in captivity, did not know how to hunt and rangers were hoping to capture them by putting out food. He said they had survived initially partly by eating garbage, notably game that hunters had stored in freezers that had thawed as electricity lines were destroyed in the floods.

"There are a lot of hunters in the valleys. One threw out an entire wild boar, and of course the wolves, with their keen sense of smell, could find that from miles away," he said.

He said the wolves presented no danger to humans, but he feared they might not survive long in the wild.

"We have seen no evidence that they can feed themselves in the wild. They have not shown they can kill an animal, they could die from hunger," he said.

"They were used to having breakfast served every morning."

(Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Janet Lawrence)