PARIS - Wolves are at the gates of Paris.
A dead male wolf, probably shot by hunters, was found Jan. 31 in Coole, a town 100 miles east of the French capital. Since May, wolves have attacked flocks of sheep 29 times in a cluster of villages about 112 miles southeast of Paris.
"That's just a few days' walk for a wolf," said Maxime Zucca, a researcher at Natureparif, a government-funded body that studies wildlife in Ile-de-France, the region surrounding the capital. "We can't predict if or when they'll arrive in the Paris area, but it's something we have to be prepared for."
While wolves don't pose an immediate danger to the city's residents, they have been spreading out north and west in France since crossing over from Italy in 1992, and everywhere they've led to clashes between farmers who say their flocks are at risk and environmentalists who welcome the return of the mythical predators. Farmers, supported by some members of parliament, want France to pull out of accords banning the hunting of protected raiders such as wolves, lynx and bears.
"Wolves are fine in the Alps, in Siberia, in Yellowstone but they are incompatible with human farming," Nicolas Dhuicq, a lawmaker who has entered a bill allowing wolf hunting, said in an interview as he and farmers in the Aube region, southeast of Paris, met at a local farm to discuss the challenges they face from wolves.
Until their return in the 1990s, the last wolves in France were killed in the southwest in the 1920s. They have been extinct in the Paris region since the middle of the 19th century.
France has a wolf population now of between 250 and 300, and numbers are growing, according to the International Wolf Center in Ely, Minn.
That compares with 1,000 in Italy, as many as 2,000 in Spain, and about 50 in Germany.