Wolves at a popular national park have been approaching human visitors more frequently.
Dutch authorities will be allowed to use paintball guns to shoot at wolves at a popular national park to scare them off after at least one of the animals begins approaching visitors, a court ruled on Wednesday.
Wolves are currently protected animals in the Netherlands and cannot legally be hunted.
But authorities in the eastern province of Gelderland suggested that wolves at the Hoge Veluwe National Park be kept at a distance from humans visiting the popular spot using paintball guns.
In its ruling, the Central Netherlands District Court said that a female wolf at the park had been spotted approaching walkers and cyclists, displaying what it called “unnatural behaviour.” An expert heard by the court said that the wolf was becoming “increasingly bolder” and posed a threat to public safety.
It wasn’t immediately clear when authorities would begin using paintball guns to target wolves in the park.
Wolves have recently become the subject of heated debate in several countries in Europe where the animals have had a resurgence.
Two centuries after wolves were hunted to extinction in the Netherlands, the animals returned to the country after a pair crossed the border from Germany and gave birth to three cubs on Dutch soil.
In light of the increased presence of wolves in European countries, the European Union suggested a review of the protection status of the animal.
In December, the European Commission proposed a lighter protection for the wolf’s growing population, suggesting downgrading its protection status from “strictly” to “merely” protected.
In the same month, Estonia started its annual cull of its wolf population, setting the cull quota at 144, citing there are more animals than the country’s conservation plans permit.