Unsociable, and seldom seen. The wolf (Canis lupus) is a species that had been considered extinct in Catalonia for almost a century, until in 1990 the sporadic presence was detected in the Pyrenees of solitary wolves that had come all the way from the Alps.
That is why the video of a wolf strolling quietly across the snowy slopes of the Núria ski station, in the Catalan Pyrenees, is so special. The recording, made on Thursday, once again confirms the presence of this wild species in the country, two years after a wolf was last seen by human eyes in Catalonia, although fixed detector cameras have occasionally recorded an animal's passage. This video was filmed by maintenance worker Lluís Torrent at the ski station 130km north of Barcelona, and has been widely circulated on social media.
The Catalan government's territory and sustainability department - which has had a monitoring plan for wolves for many years - knows of two wolves which it recorded during 2019, one in the Ripollès county, where the Núria resort is located, and another about 80km further west in the Port del Comte area. Both are males that live alone. The one seen in the Núria valley could thus be one of these.
When he filmed the video, Lluís Torrent was with a colleague, Marc Coma, and he was taken by surprise. "It all happened very fast but there was no show of aggression," the two men told the ACN agency. Torrent added that at one point the wolf looked at them, but he then continued on his way normally. In the video, one of the men comments that the wolf seemed to have a limp.
Following the footprints
In 2014, photographer Ferran Jordà, from the village of Queralbs, close to Núria, was also able to capture an image of the solitary animal in a snowfield at about 1,500 metres of altitude.
The wolves found in the Pyrenees, in both France and Catalonia, are a result of the natural expansion of the recovering Italian wolf population, belonging to the Canis lupus italicus subspecies. From the Apennines, Italian wolves arrived in the French Alps and from there, a few specimens reached the Pyrenees. Catalan government studies have recorded the presence of wolves in Catalan territory every year from 2000 to 2014. Reproduction has not yet been confirmed nor the exact number of individuals, which in any case are just a few individuals.
A separate, sizable wolf population, belonging to the Canis lupus signatus subspecies, still exists in the northwest of the Iberian peninsula.