The animal found dead next to a road close to Marseille on January 13 has been formally confirmed to be a wolf.
The animal is believed to have been hit by a vehicle and was found between the communes of Cassis and Carnoux, close to the famous creeks, or calanques, as they are known.
“They are living in the Calanques national park and we have a beautiful pack," says Zacharia Bruyas, a park ranger.
"A couple had six pups, and there is a good survival rate. It is almost certain that the wolf found dead on the outskirts of the park belongs to this pack. We are carrying out genetic tests but this will not have a direct impact on their overall chances of survival.
"Their presence on the territory is good news as it shows the excellent health of local ecosystems. If the predator settles on our territory, it means that there is enough to eat and that nature is doing its job."
The Calanques national park is a spectacularly beautiful succession of rocky coves and wild clifftop scrubland close to Marseille. Over the past couple of years there have been many sightings of wolves.
Four packs in vicinity
In 2021, four wolf packs were declared to be present in the areas around Cadarache, Mont Aurélien and Sainte-Victoire in the wild and mountainous hinterland north of the Calanques national park.
But Mr Bruyas is quick to point out that the lupine presence over the past two years has not posed any cohabitation problems with humans although their arrival has been less good news for the local goat population. Last September half a herd was slaughtered by wolves - 12 goats in total.
"They are present throughout the national park, but they are focused particularly on the plateau of Carpiagne," said the president of the Calanques park, Didier Réault, in September 2021.
Last September, 300 metres from the centre of La Penne-sur-Huveaune, a commune bordering Marseille, amateur photographer Frédéric Gervais filmed two wolves with a thermal camera. This was confirmed a few days later by two agents of the French Office of Biodiversity.
Plea to drive carefully
The Calanques national park has issued a plea for motorists to take care when driving through following the recent wolf death.
"There is a lot of life at night around natural areas. Not only wolves but deer and wild boar. Please do not speed, especially at dusk and early morning,” says Mr Bruyas.
Initial data collected by the wolf-lynx network between December 2020 and February 2021 were confirmed by video traps in the autumn of 2021, when the presence of a male and a female were noted, according to Charles Vergobbi, deputy director of the Bouches-du-Rhône Departmental Directorate of Territories and the Sea.
There is little livestock in the creeks except a few herds of sheep and goats plus a significant number of wild boar, which are probably their main food source. There are also deer, foxes and hares.
On the trail of the wolf - in Brittany
Meanwhile in Brittany Céline Allain and her son Paul were driving home when they came across an animal they thought too big to be a dog. Paul leapt out and took a 13 second video of the creature running away across a field.
And this week the French Office of Biodiversity confirmed that it was indeed a wolf.
"I don't know why, but I knew right away that it was a wolf," says Paul. He and his mother were returning from Lannion on January 7, when, in the middle of the road, they saw an animal.
"What sort of a dog is that, I asked myself?", remembers Celine. "Then Paul said ‘Mum, it's not a dog, it's a wolf!’ and he had the reflex to pull out his phone."
Both are convinced that the animal was startled. Their electric car arrived without any noise. "The wolf casually crossed the road and took the direction of a field. He took the time to look at us before leaving, to check if we were following him."
A few moments later, still with his mobile phone in hand, Paul left to survey the field, looking for a footprint.
The grey wolf (canis lupus) returned to France via the Italian Southern Alps in 1992 but had not been seen in the calanques near Marseille until recently. Though its presence remains concentrated in the Alps and Provence, it has been spotted in regions as far away as Lorraine, Burgundy and even in the west of France, in Haute-Vienne.
According to the OFB, the grey wolf population is increasing in France, with an estimated population of about 620 adult wolves at the end of winter 2021, compared to 580 a year earlier.
The body of a wolf was discovered in October 2021 on the side of a road in Saint-Brévin-les-Pins in the Loire-Atlantique signalling its presence in this department for the first time in a century, the local prefecture announced.