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Wolf in Image: Swen Pförtner/picture alliance via Getty Images Wolves hold a special place in the human imagination that dates into prehistory, and has surfaced countless times in folklore and culture. Now, scientists have presented a modern iteration of this ancient obsession in a new study that links the reintroduction of wolves into Germany with a rise in electoral support for far-right politicians.
Wolves once occupied an enormous range across much of North America and Eurasia, but human activities such as over-hunting and habitat destruction caused their numbers to crash in recent centuries. Numerous nations, including the United States and Germany, have spent years reintroducing wolves to regions where they previously were exterminated, which has positive ripple effects on ecosystems but has also resulted in wolves preying on livestock.
Now, research led by Bernhard Clemm von Hohenberg, a computational social scientist at the University of Amsterdam, combines a range of different data about public opinion on wolves that includes fine-grained spatial maps of wolf attacks in German municipalities, local surveys, Twitter posts, election manifestos, and Facebook ads.
Together, the results provide “evidence that the reemergence of the wolf has been accompanied by electoral gains for far-right parties” and show that “far-right politicians […]