Injured wolf saved by crowdfunding efforts returned to wild

A wolf which was found lying in a ditch with serious injuries after being hit by a car in September spurred thousands of Czechs into action and started a crowdfunding effort to help save the animal’s life. Having now fully recovered, the wolf has been released back into the wild, despite previous reports that this would not be possible.

The injured wolf had been lying helpless in a ditch for several hours when some mushroom pickers came across him on a side road in the Karlovy Vary region back in September and alerted the local animal rescue station. He had been hit by a car but the driver did not report the accident, instead leaving him for dead by the roadside. The young male wolf was barely conscious, unable to stand, had a broken jaw, and was suffering from extensive injuries.

Although 2.5 million crowns was raised within days to help pay for his treatment and surgery, it was initially reported that he would not be able to return to the wild.

"Initially, we did not believe that such a seriously injured wolf could recover to the point where it would be able to return to the wild. Colleagues from the Drosera rescue station, who were the first to take care of the wolf, convinced us that it was simply necessary to try," says Petr Stýblo, coordinator of the National Network of Rescue Stations.

Petr Stýblo | Photo: Matěj Schneider,  Czech Radio

The funds raised enabled the wolf to undergo surgery at an orthopaedic veterinary clinic in Prague, which was successful, and recovery was fast, says Stýblo.

"The help of the public was also an important impetus for our decision-making. The financial donations of hundreds of people enabled us to pay for very demanding veterinary procedures and subsequent intensive care. Fortunately, the recovery from the operation went well and fairly quickly.”

After post-op recovery, a detailed evaluation of the state of its health by a veterinarian, and a consultation with experts from abroad on similar cases, it was decided that the wolf could be returned to its original territory. Initially, it was thought that the wolf would get too used to the presence of humans during its time at the rescue station, which would present a further barrier to the possibility of it being released back into the wild, but steps were taken to mitigate this, says Petr Stýblo.

“We did everything to ensure that the wolf's contact with humans was limited to a minimum and that he was provided with the best available care, including natural food.”

Photo: Drosera Bublava

The wolf has been fitted with a tracking collar that allows for its movements and activity to be monitored in detail, including its eating behaviour and habits.

“After some time, we will be able to evaluate whether it has re-joined its pack, or whether he will go his own way and establish a new territory," explains Martin Duľa, a zoologist from the Institute of Forest Ecology at the Mendel University in Brno. “Right now we know that he is roaming in the territory of the pack that he came from.”

This was the first time that an injured wolf from the wild was rescued and treated in the Czech Republic, so dialogue with people abroad was vital.

“Colleagues from rescue centres for wolves in Germany and Italy helped us a lot with their experience, because it was the first such case in the Czech Republic,” says Stýblo.

Photo: Věra Hájková,  Czech Radio

Jindřiška Jelínková from the Agency for Nature and Landscape Protection of the Czech Republic agrees.

"The information from our Italian colleagues was crucial. None of the 83 rescued wolves that they released back into the wild needed to be recaptured, nor did they return to areas inhabited by humans. It is essential that the wolf is released close to where it was found. There is a good chance that he will find his original pack and re-join it. Wolves can recognize members of their pack even after a long separation."

Authors: Anna Fodor , Dominik Hron , Radim Jehlík
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