Grey wolf, colourful village – A hunter’s story
Location: Répáshuta – Hungary,
Story by: Tamás Erdős
Tamás Erdős is a hunter and the mayor of Répáshuta, a village in the Bükk Mountains where wolves live. The village itself is known for eco-tourism. Wolves have returned to the northern mountain ranges of Hungary, where and there have been numerous reports on their presence. Hunters look at them as competitors and some of them have a negative perception of large carnivores, especially wolves. Tamás, as a hunter and mayor of a small village in a valley of the Bükk Mountains, however, has a different view: according to his opinion, wolf is a key actor of biodiversity and might even have beneficial effect on trophy quality. In the video, he recalls his first encounter with a wolf during hunting. He says that the sight of the wolves stunned him and ever since he has been happy and proud that wolves live in the neighbourhood of his village.
Répáshuta is a small village in a valley of the Bükk Mountains. Because of its ideal location it is a favourite ecotourism destination. The slogan of the village is “the living” nature. Its mayor, Tamás Erdős is convinced that – in accordance with their slogan – nature should be considered as a whole system, which still has a lot of undiscovered treasures and wolves also have a their part in it.
Tamás Erdős is determined to keep Rékáshuta’s natural treasures and the area in the same condition as it was at the end of the 18th century when the village was founded. Wolves have always been important species of the Bükk Mountains, which is why he is eager to let them live undisturbed and believes in human-wildlife coexistence.
For this reason, he didn’t disclose the location of the wolf den after he had found it in the forest and for a long time, he was the only one who knew about it.
I wanted to give the wolves a fair chance to grow up undisturbed, as naturally as possible.”
Even today when he goes by that location, he is very proud of the fact that this was the place where wolves had been born.
His first encounter with a wolf took place in 1993 during hunting. He noticed something moving in the forest 60-70 metres from him. First, he thought it was a stray dog, but after a few seconds it became obvious that it was a wolf. He was shocked at first, but also fascinated by this experience, especially by the fact that the wolf looked the same as if it was from a cartoon movie, like it was suddenly drawn by someone.
“I went home and was extremely proud that wolves were still present around Répáshuta.”
The aim of sustainable and ecological hunting is to provide a habitat and to maintain the populations not just for game species but also for animals previously considered as pests, like large carnivores. Today we know that these animals are not only indispensable for the ecosystem, but can aid wildlife management by selecting weak and sick individuals. Large carnivores could shift wildlife management to a more quality focused approach instead of quantity. Predators can help the renewal of forest vegetation through forcing prey species to move, disturbing or, in fact, preying upon them. Ultimately, this can have a positive, diversifying effect on the complete forest ecosystem. The ecological wildlife management takes a holistic approach during the everyday wildlife management and hunting activities.
Tourism is an activity that an bring society closer to large carnivores and increase the real knowledge on the species among citizens. When the participants observe these animals in the wild, a bond is created and the awareness of the needs and the lifestyle of the animals is rising. For some, this experience is a dream come true. There are a lot of different activities that can be offered: photo tourism, talks, field trips with biological materials (skulls and skins), tracking courses or observation trips. Also a visit to a shepherd and other people who have historically shared the territory can be arranged to let the public know.
Tamás is convinced that wolves have an important role in natural selection as they select the weak and young. For this reason, in the future they might have a strong role in positively affecting the quality of the trophies for the hunters.
“Obviously this won’t happen in a day or two, but in decades we will see this effect very clearly if we can learn how to live with the wolves for a long time.”