Hunt on to find prey for British wolves

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AT the time of year when our diet is dominated by turkey, university researchers have been busy finding out which meat tempts wild wolves.

Experts at Durham University say the question is an important one because wolves may be reintroduced into our countryside, with farmers fearing they may target livestock.

Wildlife conservationists also want to know what the wolves would eat to help in the management of prey and the predators themselves.

The research, carried out jointly with the University of Sassari in Italy, found the diet of wolves is dominated by wild boar and roe deer.

Dr Stephen Willis, of Durham University, said: “Wolves were hunted to extinction in the UK, probably by the end of the 17th century.

“We were able to study wolves in their natural habitat in woodland in Tuscany.

“Our findings from Italy suggest that if they were introduced into an area with a healthy hooved animal population, their impact on livestock could be minimal.”

The woodlands in Tuscany have populations of deer and boar, but are also grazed by sheep, goats and cattle.

Deer and boar made up 95 per cent of the diet of the wolves in the study area.

In a report published in 2007, the Royal Society said reintroducing wolves into the Scottish Highlands would benefit the ecosystem by reducing numbers of red deer.

The need for costly deer culls would be reduced, and fewer deer would allow the natural regeneration of the Caledonian pine forest.

Twitter: @SunderlandEcho