As wolf numbers rise, experts warn of danger of wolf-dog puppies

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As wolf numbers rise, experts warn of danger of wolf-dog puppies
A husky sniffing a wolf. Photo: DPA

In light of rising wolf populations across Germany, there's a greater risk of dog-wolf interbreeding. Some organizations say these hybrid pups could be worrisome and potentially dangerous.


The Federal Documentation and Advice Centre on the Wolf (DBBW) said on Monday that, while documented cases of dog-wolf births remain low, the danger is real and may increase in the coming years.
It's not only the DBBW that is concerned. Some German states have also spoken up in the last few weeks to warn citizens of the potential dangers of these mixed-breeds.
"Theoretically, wolf hybrids can occur wherever wolves and dogs meet," said the Rhineland-Palatinate environment ministry in June, adding that they "supported precautions" to prevent dog-wolf intermingling. 
On the question whether the hybrids could be less shy and therefore more dangerous than wolves, the Ministry said "this may be the case" and thus killing them is justified.
The fear of interbreeding between wolves and dogs is not unfounded. There have been multiple cases in Germany of wolf-dog spawns spanning over the last 20 years.
One of the first cases of modern wolf-dog interbreeding occurred in 2003 in the village of Neustadt in Saxony, when a female wolf mated with a dog and had six puppies.
According to the DBBW, two of these pups were captured and taken to a Bavarian enclosure, where they suffered from continual stress. After they attacked the neighbouring enclosure through a fence, both hybrids were put to sleep.
Only last year, another wolf in Thuringia gave birth to six half-wolf, half-dog puppies. Following heated debate between local activists and the state's environment ministry, three of the babies were shot and killed. 
According to the ministry, the other three hybrids remained alive and still roam the local area to this day.
While they may be cute, wolf-dog puppies can pose a danger due to their hunter instincts and lowered caution, warned the DBBW. Photo: DPA
Despite the killing of these hybrid animals taking place, making the decision to put down the mix-breed pups is not a simple task. 
Wolves are a strictly protected species and, according to the DBBW, wolf hybrids enjoy the same protection in the first four generations as their wolf ancestors. Killing them is only possible with an exemption under nature conservation law. Otherwise, there would be the danger that wolves would be shot as alleged crossbreeds.
From the point of view of species protection, the DBBW stated that mating of wolves and dogs should be avoided "in order to prevent further spread of domestic dog genes in the wolf population”. 
"We have bred out the wolves' sense of caution and instead bred in many physical traits that distinguish them from their ancestral form," said the DBBW. "Many of these characteristics reduce the survivability of dogs in the wild." 
Since the turn of the millennium, wolves have been multiplying again in Germany, after having been considered extinct in this country for about 150 years. 
The largest populations live in the east of the country and Lower Saxony, and it is estimated that there are around 800 wolves in total nationwide.


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