Have you ever noticed that? You are driving on a country road and there are dozens of deer standing in the fields on your right and left, grazing happily. In broad daylight! Apparently the once shy game now doesn’t care whether they are seen or not. Deer don’t seem to have much to fear. This is surprising, because there are more and more hunters and huntresses in Germany. The hunting association currently registers almost 436,000, more than ever.

Why am I telling you this? If humans don’t want to fulfill their role as top predators in forests and fields, then they should at least give the deer’s most important natural enemy a free hand or mouth. But as soon as a walker in Brandenburg reported that a wolf had pounced on his dachshund, the outraged people in the country raised their verbal guns and aimed at Isegrim (that’s the name of the wolf in the fairy tale).

And yes, there are wolves that seriously injure or kill sheep, cattle and horses, and I understand the horror and anger of shepherds and private owners who lose animals this way. But: Wolves’ diet consists of over 90 percent deer, deer and wild boar and not farm animals, as studies of fecal samples clearly prove.

Why I’m telling you this: Last year, the German Insurance Industry Association reported 265,000 wildlife accidents. In purely mathematical terms, this means a collision between a car and a wild animal every two minutes, with most wildlife accidents occurring in autumn and in the months of April and May. In 2022, insured losses amounted to a new record amount of 950 million euros, 2,600 people were injured, some seriously, and seven died. The most common such accidents are caused by deer; there were almost 210,000 in the 2022/23 season alone, as the German Hunting Association reports. The number of often fatal collisions is particularly high in Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg and Schleswig-Holstein. In contrast to the eastern federal states, there are currently only a few wolves there. Is that a coincidence?

It should not be forgotten that wolves also cause economic damage and human suffering, albeit on a completely different scale than their preferred prey. In 2022, the Federal Documentation and Advisory Center on Wolves registered 1,136 attacks on livestock, mostly sheep, for which their owners received compensation payments of 616,000 euros. In addition, 18.4 million euros were spent on preventive measures to protect herds from hungry wolves.

However, contrary to all claims, people in this country have nothing to fear from wolves. In contrast to deer, the predators are usually very shy unless they have been fed (as in some military training areas). The fact that there are occasional encounters between walkers – with or without dogs – is rather coincidental.

If we allowed a natural population of wolves in the country, the populations of deer (and other wild animals) could return to natural, lower levels. The lively deer would probably also be more shy if they had to fear more hunting pressure from their natural enemies. And drivers could possibly drive more calmly across the country without having to expect to collide with a wild animal every minute.