The mysterious wolf slayer who leaves the dead animals on display in Tuscan villages has shot seven of them and strangled one in a bizarre revenge
- Eight endangered wolves have been found dead since early November
- Murderers left corpses in village squares and on theater steps
- Sheep farmers are said to be behind the slaughter
- Decimated flocks of sheep have ruined many farmers in the area
- Since reintroduction, the wolf population in Tuscany has grown to 230
- Deaths have sparked a dispute between conservation groups and local farmers
Reintroduction: Wolves were reintroduced to Tuscany from the mountains of Abruzzo in the 1990s with EU funding
Its medieval hill towns, burnt valleys and free-flowing Chianti have made Tuscany a hit with British expats and tourists. But in recent weeks, the peaceful valleys have been shaken by a predatory serial killer.
Eight endangered native wolves have been found dead since early November, with three fresh bodies unearthed in the last week alone.
In an overtly political gesture, the vigilante killer or killers have displayed the carcasses where they will be widely seen, in village squares and in one case on the steps of a theatre.
All but one of the protected animals were shot while the others were strangled. The slaughter is believed to be the work of a disgruntled sheep farmer seeking personal revenge after attacks on his flock.
Veterinarian Marco Aloisi, director of a local wildlife sanctuary, said the public display of the wolves’ bodies appeared to be “a protest”.
Wolves were reintroduced to Tuscany from the mountains of Abruzzo in the 1990s with EU funding.
MFI furniture millionaire Paul Lister has similar plans to reintroduce wolves to his estate in Alladale, Scotland, despite them becoming extinct in Britain in the 17th century.
The number of wolves in Italy has increased as illegal hunting by farmers has become less common, and there are now an estimated 230 in Tuscany.
The packs typically live high in the Apennines but are driven onto farmland by cold weather or when they cannot find enough prey.
In the past two years, they’ve ventured deeper than ever before. According to official figures, wolves were responsible for 1,000 attacks on sheep, cattle and horses in 2012.
Since then, a wave of marauding attacks has decimated herds along the Maremma coast.
Growing problem: The number of wolves in Italy has increased as illegal hunting by farmers has become less common, and there are now an estimated 230 in Tuscany
Activism: Conservation groups have organized protests and called for swift justice for those behind the killings
In some areas, production has halved, driving farmers to the brink of ruin.
Regional wolf mitigation projects, including traps and specially trained dogs, have largely failed.
Many sympathize with the farmers’ frustration.
Local MP Luca Sani, chairman of the Agriculture Committee of the Lower House of Parliament, said: “The killing of wolves is a matter of great concern. However, it would be irresponsible to bury our heads in the sand and fail to recognize that this action is a worrying sign of the desperation of our farmers.”
Conservation groups have organized protests and called for swift justice. James Bottinelli, spokesman for Group A Law Against Vivisection in Grosseto, said: “Anyone who kills an animal is a criminal and must be stopped, but especially in a case like this where we are dealing with a serial killer.”
Businessman Paul Lister has plans similar to those in Tuscany and wants to reintroduce wolves into the Scottish wilderness at his estate in Alladale