Country diary: When a wolf looks at you, you freeze

Country diary: When a wolf looks at you, you freeze

Montesinho, Portugal: The Iberian wolf is protected here, not persecuted. And this young female has got me in her sights

I slow for the roundabout, glance to the north, and catch a movement at the margins of dense Quercus pyrenaica woodland that stretches from here across the Spanish border. It cloaks the low ridges of shale and schist that run almost to the northern Iberian shores of the Bay of Biscay.

This isn’t a striking landscape, nor even a disarmingly intimate one. But it is remarkably thinly populated. Its few villages are closely packed, their narrow streets crowded into clearings that the charcoal burners created centuries ago. Jays have been busy replanting. Here and there, the leaf-roller moth is affecting the health of the trees. Pale patches across the scarps indicate some are dying. Fire is also a threat. For all that, this is a glorious, expansive area of native woodland, and abounds in wildlife that is protected here but persecuted to near-extinction in many other areas of Europe.

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