“Suddenly, there it was about 300m from me, it looked like a sort of big dog, but…”
The mother of two had been relaxing after dinner on Sunday August 27, taking in the view of the fields and forests in the commune of Saint-Celerin near Le Mans in Sarthe when she saw it.
At first, she said, she was taken aback by the size and powerful gait of the animal, but when it looked back at her with a fearless curiosity she seized her phone and filmed a shaky, nine second video.
The video shows a large dog-like animal trotting away to the treeline.
‘That is a wolf’
Jean-Luc Valérie from the Observatoire du Loup, an association that traces wolf sightings in France told France Bleu that there could be no doubt what it was.
“With its dark back and lighter fur under the belly, and short tail with a black tip,” he said, “I can be categorical: that is a wolf.
“Then there is the sheer size of the animal, it’s enormous. And aside from its physical appearance there is also its behaviour, so typical of a wolf: it paused just a second, looked around and knew that it had been spotted. Then without fear, went back under the cover of the forest”.
While some hailed the sighting as a victory for biodiversity, Mr Valérie urged caution.
"You can’t lose any time where wolves are concerned, if you do, you pay for it," he said, urging the department to let locals and farmers know about the wolf and for appropriate training to take place.
However the OFD, the public body that monitors wildlife in France, was not convinced, saying that a wolf could not be confirmed without a genetic sample from hair or faeces.
‘A very big dog’
“We sent an agent to investigate,” an OFD administrator in Sarthe told The Connexion.”
The agent found tracks, but they did not match those of a wolf…
“It was a very big dog,” she said, “called Pogo. Apparently, he runs away a lot”
Pogo is a Saarloos/Husky crossbreed, which could easily be mistaken for a wolf at a distance due to its size. Indeed, Pogo has Siberian wolf, German shepherd and Husky ancestors.
The family who filmed the dog had only moved in two weeks prior and had apparently not seen a Pogo before. Nor have they, or any living person, ever seen a wolf in Sarthe.
Where are the wolves in France?
Wolves had been eradicated in France by 1937, according to the OFB.
50 years later, following a change in European Environmental protection laws, wolves naturally crossed the alps into the Mercantour national park on the border with Italy.
Today there are between 900 and 1000 wolves in France, most of which live in the Alps. Many live in the Pyrenees or the east in the Parc naturel régional de Lorraine.
No wolves live in the North West of France.
“There are no wolves in Sarthe as far as we know,” the OFD told The Connexion. “It’s always possible for wolves to be sighted in an area where they don’t live as they can cross from another place.”
The OFD track the presence of wolves in France on their loupfrance.fr website.