Golden Jackal in Schleswig Holstein

Sheep attacks blamed on wolves, but DNA reveals astonishing truth

By Zoë Monk Content Writer

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Golden jackals, resembling small grey wolves, have been spotted in the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein for the first time.

Originally native to the Balkans, these predators have gradually spread across Europe, reaching northern Italy, eastern Austria, Hungary and now northern Germany.

Sheep attacked

A recent incident in Dithmarschen on the North Sea coast, where three sheep were attacked, initially led authorities to suspect a wolf. However, according to the State Ministry for the Environment, DNA has confirmed the presence of a golden jackal (Canis aureus).

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Golden jackals are smaller and slimmer than grey wolves and typically weigh between 8 and 10 kilograms (17 to 22 pounds), though larger specimens can reach up to 15 kilograms. They are protected under German federal law.

Following the attack, one sheep died, resulting in the farmer claiming compensation. German regulations provide damages to farmers for livestock losses caused by protected predators such as wolves and jackals.

Spreading across Europe

Golden jackals are closely related to grey wolves and coyotes, rather than the African black-backed and side-striped jackals. Individual jackals have been sporadically detected in Germany and Switzerland over the past few years, with sightings in Brandenburg in 2000, Bavaria in 2012, Hessen in 2013 and Lower Saxony in 2016. Their northernmost population is in Denmark, but it's unclear if the latest sightings in Schleswig-Holstein are from Danish jackals.

While the English Channel makes it tricky for these Golden Jackals to reach British shores, their adaptability, expanding territory and the potential for accidental transportation could mean we will start seeing them close to home in the future.

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