F07 – the oldest female wolf in Switzerland
The life expectancy of free-ranging wolves is 12-13 years. F07, a female wolf living in Switzerland since 2011, was camera-trapped in January 2023, as reported by the canton of Graubünden. Her age is estimated at an astonishing 13-14 years. This makes her the oldest female wolf in the country. The story of F07 provides fascinating insights into the colonisation of wolves in Switzerland.
Up to the age of 1-2 years, sometimes even longer, wolves grow up in their family pack. Then they migrate in search of a mating partner and a free territory. F07 was detected for the first time in June 2011 on the basis of a saliva sample taken from a kill in the Upper Valais. A further 65 detections were to follow in the course of her life. No other Swiss wolf has such a long data series.
In autumn 2011, a game warden observed two wolves for the first time on the Calanda massif. A few months later, in May 2012, a pregnant wolf was observed in the same area. Finally, in June 2012, two wolves were genetically detected in the area. The male was identified as M30. The first wolf pup, since the extinction of the species, was observed and photographed by a hunter in September 2012. F07 has remained in the Calanda area until today. For the first nine years, she was verifiably with M30, with whom she formed Switzerland's first wolf pack in 150 years.
The male M30 left his last genetic traces in 2019. It is likely that he is dead. Whether M30 and F07 migrated to Switzerland together is not certain, but quite possible. The origin of F07 has not been completely clarified. The same is true for M30. Their former pack existed from 2012 to 2019, but there is no longer a pack living at the Calanda. Individual wolves like F07 have been sporadically detected genetically in recent years. These records can be viewed at the KORA Monitoring Center.
Offspring and pack formation
The reproduction of F07 is surprisingly well documented. A full 46 pups (20 females and 26 males) can be traced back to her and M30. The eight litters date from 2012 to 2019. By May 2019, only 9 of the 46 pups could be accounted for alive. 12 were already verifiably dead by then, and of the others, the last detection was a long time ago. In four cases, the offspring from the pairing of M30 and F07 had established their own packs in the immediate vicinity of the Calanda. They were all females that formed packs with males from the Italian-French population. Thus, the following packs go back to F07: Ringelspitz (founded by F33, extinct with her death in 2021), Stagias (founded by F31), Muchetta (founded by F11) and Kärpf (founded by F32). Today, in addition to these packs, direct descendants of the Calanda pack still live as territorial individual wolves in Switzerland: for example, M76, who has been living in the Emmental/Entlebuch area since summer 2017, and F18, who has been living in the Engadine since summer 2016 and in the Swiss National Park since winter 2017.
The last years
In the former territory of the Calanda pack, several wolves have resided or migrated through at times also in 2020, 2021 and 2022. Whether F07 has joined up with these wolves is not documented. What is certain is that she was travelling together with a wolf-dog hybrid at the end of March 2022. This male (M239) was shot by the game warden on 31.03.2022. In the latest camera trap picture of the canton of Graubünden, she can again be seen with another wolf. It is quite possible that the current picture will be one of the last. At some point, old wolves no longer hunt successfully due to physical decay and die. If the carcass is found, it is important to immediately notify the local game warden of the Office of Hunting and Fishing.
For more info:
Ralph Manz, KORA staff member in the monitoring of wolves, talked about F07 to the newspaper Südostschweiz (in German).
KORA Annual Report (2020): Female wolves from the Calanda successfully establish new packs (p. 10 – in German).