Russian wolf photos were taken in the wild.
Since the authenticity of the wolf images by Russian wildlife photographer Sergey Gorshkov, that are published on the Wild Wonders of Europe blog and in our gallery has recently been questioned, we tried to verify and clarify the circumstances under which these images have been taken.
During his efforts to take great wolf images, photographer Sergey Gorshkov has cooperated closely with nature reserve authorities, wildlife biologists and local hunters.
One area where he took many of the images published in the Wild Wonders of Europe blog and galleries, is the region of Tver. Here PhD researcher Vladimir Bologov and his team have for several years raised orphaned, abandoned or “un-wanted” wolf pups brought to them by hunters, farmers, zoos and others at the so called “wolf camp” at “Chistiy Les” , right beside the Central Forest Reserve - a very wild and very sparsely populated, protected area c. 400 km northwest of Moscow. They raise them in order to study the animals and then release them back into the wild.
Some of these wolves are kept in remote enclosures in the forest, most of which are not accessible for the public. The aim is to release them into the wild in late winter/early spring or when observations show that they are experienced and old enough to survive without further support.
Most of these free-roaming, released wolves leave the vicinity of the enclosure after a short while and are soon rarely or never seen again. But some hang around for a few days or sometimes weeks. During this time Mr Bologov and his team go searching for these wolves in order to study their whereabouts and their behaviour in the wild.
Right after their release, several of them are still somewhat bonded with their former “parents”, i.e. Mr Bologov, and may come to play and socialise with him for a while out in the forest.
Whilst accompanying Mr Bologov during one of the occasions, when young wolves were released into the wild, Sergey Gorshkov had the chance to photograph some of these then free-ranging wolves from short distances and with relatively short lenses. These wolves have thus been photographed in the wild and not in an enclosure. On the other hand, they are released/reintroduced animals that are still reasonably accustomed to humans and therefore easier to approach than otherwise. But they are free to go where they like.
The ethical dimension of disturbing wild wolves at their denning site has been questioned in some comments in our wildBlog.
Sergey Gorshkov explains that these pictures have been made possible through the help of local hunters who took him to dens they found and helped him to install camera traps and hides on location.
The wolf is a widespread, common and at the same time heavily persecuted animal in Russia. In many areas hunters are still being paid bounties by the state for killing wolves – even pups. Finding a wolf den therefore usually means that at least the pups will be killed by the finder.
As a professional wildlife photographer and member of the Wild Wonders of Europe Team we trust that Sergey Gorshkov has taken utmost care not to disturb the wolf family more than necessary.
In addition to his camera trap work Sergey Gorshkov explains that he also spent hundreds of hours in hides set up in the vicinity of these dens.
Finally, the series of images where the wolves are attacking and killing a subadult wild boar: Mr Bologov confirmed that they have been taken at a feeding site for shooting wild boar, from an accompanying hide - both set up by local hunters. The site is situated about 3 km away from Chistiy Les. Mr Bologov explained to us that released wolves killed at least four boars at this boar hunting site in previous years.
Sergey Gorshkov explains that he was at the boar feeding place when he witnessed and photographed another one of these incidents where a group of wolves attacked and later killed a boar that had come to the feeding place.
Sergey Gorshkov, Vladimir Bologov, magazine editors, a number of web visitors, fellow photographers and leading biologists have all contributed in different ways to this subject - with ideas, opinions and facts – thank you very much all of you for your very valuable input!
May we finally add that the Wild Wonders of Europe team is not against photographing animals in certain degrees of captivity, but that we think images taken in the wild generally have a greater relevance and value. And we think that disclosure is very important, if any images are not taken in the wild. Therefore we have demanded from all our photographers to state in the file info if any picture was taken of animals in captive conditions. And we have also designed the whole project so that it consists virtually entirely of images shot in the wild.
With many thanks for your patience, your interest and your continuing support,
On behalf of Wild Wonders of Europe,
Wild Wonders of Europe is about the joy of wildness. About what is still out there and what we are risking to lose. Why it matters to us. And why we need to protect it. Read more»
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…and our many other very important partners for their generous contributions and support! All without which this epic conservation photography project would never have been possible.
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