Wolves find sanctuary in Israeli minefield


A pup from the wolf pack. Photographer: Itamar Yairi

A pup from the wolf pack. Photographer: Itamar Yairi

A Churchill Fellow has journeyed through thick snow to a minefield in Israel’s Golan Heights in search of an elusive wolf pack.

Charles Darwin University researcher Dr Arian Wallach said the minefield was a sanctuary for wolves, such as the Itamar Pack, because it was too dangerous for humans to enter.

She travelled to the region as part of her fellowship trip around the world, during which she is investigating how losing or recovering big predators was impacting on ecosystems.

Dr Wallach said landmines in the region along the Syria border were not designed to be triggered by a wolf’s weight.

“Wolves of the Itamar Pack spend the day in the safety of the minefield and then emerge at night under the cover of darkness to hunt outside,” Dr Wallach said.

She said the poisoning of wolves was outlawed in Israel, but it occasionally happened in the Golan region, which significantly impacted many different species.

“When wolves are killed in the region, their deaths have heavy consequences for every facet of the Golan ecosystem,” she said.

“This includes the jackals the wolves dominate and the animals they prey on, such as gazelles and wild boar.”

Dr Wallach said the Itamar Pack was closely monitored by wildlife photographer Itamar Yairi, who accompanied her during her trip to the minefield.

She said wolves were powerful ecological players due to their strong social ties, living together in extended family units, cooperating in hunting, territory defence and raising young.

Dr Wallach plans to compare her findings on big predators from around the world, with her research on dingoes as part of her Churchill Fellowship project.

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