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French rangers to try capturing wolves escaped during flooding

Luna yawns in her enclosure. She is the alpha female of her pack and is respected by the other wolves. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

PARIS, Oct 6 (Reuters) - French authorities have localised a group of seven wolves that escaped a Mediterranean wildlife park during flooding over the weekend and will attempt to capture them on Wednesday.

By Geert De Clercq

The wolves – that were born in captivity and do not know how to hunt – escaped from the Alpha animal park in the Mercantour national reserve, 80 km (50 miles) north of the city of Nice, during massive flooding which destroyed their enclosure this weekend.

Eric Hansen, director of the state-run French Office for Biodiversity (OFB) for the region, told Reuters on Tuesday he could not provide the exact location in order to avoid attracting unwanted attention.

He said OFB rangers would try to sedate the animals with dart guns and return them to the reserve. He added there is no danger for the population as the wolves are used to seeing people, but he warned against any attempt to approach them.

“These wolves have no fear of man, so unlike truly wild wolves, they will not run far away from people. They have never showed aggression towards people, but the danger is that people might try to catch them. They still are wild animals,” he said.

At least four people have died and up to 18 more are missing in the worst flooding in the area for more than a century. Four days after massive downpours, many towns are still unreachable as roads and bridges have been washed away.

Hansen said a visit to the area by President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday might make it more difficult to get helicopters, so a capture operation might have to wait till Thursday.

Hansen said several witnesses had reported spotting the Canadian wolves, which are unlikely to move far away. He said that during earlier escapes from other nature parks, wolves had simply come back as they were unable to find food in the wild.

“They are used to being fed,” he said. (Reporting by Geert De Clercq Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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