There's no need to fear them anymore.
800 years ago, the phrase "The wolves have returned" would have been legit cause for abject terror all across Europe.
But in 2015, it's great news. Because it means the species, threatened or endangered in many countries on the continent, is making a big-time comeback.
According to Finland's Yle Uutiset news program, a group of hunters recently spotted pack of wolves, cubs in tow, just casually ambling around in a part of the country where they haven't been seen since at least 1905:
"A litter of wolf cubs have been caught on film in Raseborg, between Helsinki and Turku. Four cubs were filmed by a game camera in late June near the border of Raseborg and Salo. Their parents are apparently Finland's southernmost breeding wolf pair in more than a century."
And it's not just Finland! Apparently, it's a trend all across Europe, as Stephanie Pappas of the Christian Science Monitor reported in December 2014:
"Despite having half the land area of the contiguous United States and double the population density, Europe is home to twice as many wolves as the U.S.
Wolves are thriving, with more than 12,000 individuals found in 10 populations in 28 countries
There are many theories as to why the wolves are rebounding so decisively, but a New York Times report from 2013 credits the population increase to "restrictions on shooting them." Which ... seems obvious. And raises an important question:
Why was anyone shooting wolves in the first place?
Wolves have a terrible reputation that, in 2015, is pretty much completely undeserved.
Let's face it. Fairy tales really weren't the best PR for wolves, instilling generations of children with a deep-seated, irrational fear of these furry carnivores. More recently, the skeletal and weirdly hairless werewolf featured in "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" made a valiant attempt to turn thousands more children off the species for the rest of their lives.
Thankfully, we no longer live in thatched huts that can be huffed and puffed down. We have apartments. And we know werewolves aren't really a thing. We're pretty well-equipped to coexist with these guys now.And we can really, really stand to follow Europe's lead and step up our conservation game here in the lower 48 U.S. states, which despite being twice the size and far less urban than Europe, contains only half the number of wolves.
If they can do it, we can do it.
In the meantime, in an era where a new terrible report on the state of the environment seems to drop every other day, this is a much-needed piece of encouraging news.
Welcome back, wolves of Europe. We missed you.