Will wild wolves make return to their original Midlands haunts?
Open landscapes of our region once rang out to the call of the wolf’s cry. Now a campaign for their reintroduction is growing.
As the family trudged along the uneven, narrow path in fading daylight that streaked the skyline blood orange, a haunting howl surfaced from densely packed trees.
A mother tightened her grip on the child in her arms and looked nervously around. The party quickened their step.
Wolves had caught their scent. The deathly baying indicated they were coming closer.
This scene could – and would – have been played out time and time again in 13th century England.
The woodlands of Cannock Chase, the wild open landscapes of Shropshire, the forest that spread across what is now our Black Country…all rang out to the call of the wild, the wolf’s cry.
The beasts were once common, very common. The rat is now considered Britain’s premier wildlife villain, but back then it was the wolf.
The forests that bled from Shropshire’s border into Wales, in particular, teemed with packs.
In our region, wolves posed such a danger to travellers, King Edward I, monarch from 1272 to 1307, tasked Peter Corbet with wiping them out in Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Staffordshire and Shropshire.
He was the Wolf-finder General.
There are those who believe he failed, with sightings of the animals surfacing to this very day.
In February, 2010, claims of a wolf on Cannock Chase grabbed national media attention.
Walker Mark Sutton told the press: “I was walking my dog close to Broadhurst Green and I believe something that could be described as a wolf appeared.
“It was not a panther and it was too large to be a dog. It was walking through the bushes without a care in the world.”
Fellow eyewitness Peter Derbyshire said: “I was driving through the trees in the direction of Stafford when I saw something dark moving through the bushes on the right hand side of the car.
“It was definitely not a cat, it had more of a dog’s characteristics. It had a long nose and long, pointy ears.”
Just last year, Chris Howard believed he’d encountered a wolf in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire.
“I heard a crack in the woods and thought it might be a boar,” he said.
“I shone my torch and I saw a wolf with its nose down on the ground and then it looked at me. The hair around its neck was long, its eyes white.”