Where do the wolves in Germany come from?

The western branch of the Baltic Population, which extends to north-eastern Poland, is the source population of wolves in Germany and western Poland. Like in Germany, the wolf has been eradicated from central and western Poland. Only in the last 50 years, single individuals migrated to western Poland, some even as far as Germany. In the second half of the previous century, more than 40 wolves migrated from Poland to Germany. More than 30 of these were shot, more than ten were killed in car or train accidents.

Although the wolf has been protected by law in reunited Germany in 1990, several wolves have been shot in the 1990ies. Only in 1998, first hints were found that a pair of wolves pair might have established a territory on a military training area in north-eastern Saxony. Reproduction was confirmed two years later.

It took another five years until a second pack could establish. The reason for this slow development was that there were few wolves in western Poland as well, and the offspring from the first German pack did not find mating partners. This situation changed with the establishment of the second pack. From then on, offspring of the two packs could find mating partners and found new packs.

Germany and western/central Poland belong to the Central European Lowland Population (former German-Western-Polish Population). The distribution area of this population reaches from the Vistula in central Poland to Lower Saxony, the most western area with territorial wolves in Germany.

The founding animals carried the mitochondrial (i.e. maternally inherited) haplotype HW01, which is common in north-eastern Europe. Up to now, this is the most common haplotype in Germany. Haplotype HW02 is comparatively rare and had - until some years ago - been detected only in some male individuals that had emigrated from Poland. Only in the 2012/13 monitoring year, the first female wolf with that haplotype was detected in the Gartow pack. Later, daughters of that Gartow reproducing female established the Schneverdingen and Barnstorf pack (both in Lower Saxony) and passed on the haplotype.

In the last years, there have been several genetic detections of individuals in Germany that originated from the Alpine Population. These animals are distinguishable from the wolves from the Central European Lowland Population through their haplotype HW22, which is typical for the Italian and Alpine Population. However, they were not able to reproduce for a long time. This changed in the summer of 2017, when a wolf pair from two different populations raised pups in the Bavarian Forest for the first time. The male wolf originates from the Alpine Population and the female from the Central European Population.