By Federico Cornetto
A wolf severely injured in a car accident has been returned to the wild after six months at a rehabilitation centre.
In June 2018, Gregorio was found in a bush outside Piacenza, Italy, in agonising pain suffering with several broken bones and visible impact injuries.
The three-year-old male had two serious pelvic fractures and a paralysed paw, and upon his arrival at the Centro Tutela e Ricerca Fauna Esotica e Selvatica Monte Adone in Bologna, he was immediately anaesthetised and underwent surgical intervention.
After months of intense rehabilitation, he was finally returned to the wild in a field near Bologna on December 6, 2018.
Elisa Berti, from the Monte Adone centre and responsible of the wolf project, said: “Rescued wolves are brought to us from all over Italy, because we have ad hoc facilities for their treatment and rehabilitation.
“Wolves can be very adaptable and easy to work with, but only if you have the right spaces.
“If a wolf finds himself in a peaceful situation, he will remain calm and won’t bite his bandages.
“We have an isolated space in the middle of the forest, with little light and sound, and Gregorio is a particularly quiet wolf, which all helped in the rehabilitation process.”
Gregorio had to move as little as possible in the weeks following the operation, lying down in a bed of hay, patiently biding his time until he is ready to return to the wild.
Halfway through his rehabilitation at the centre – which works in conjunction with pet food maker Almo Nature – an exam highlighted an infection in Gregorio’s spine with high risk of paralysis.
He needed yet more rest and antibiotics and had to remain confined to his enclosure throughout the summer.
Elisa said: “Unfortunately, road accidents are still the number one cause of animal injuries and deaths in Italy.
“These accidents occur especially in busy roads where there are no underpasses and the animals are forced to cross.”
According to Elisa, the wolf had been in an exhilarated state during his final hours at the centre, as if he could somehow sense freedom becoming closer.
Upon release, Gregorio can be seen darting out into the field and towards the distant woods as his cage is finally open.
He has a radio collar through which the Monte Adone team have tracked his moves and found that after only two weeks from his release, he has covered more than 150 kilometres through three different Italian regions.
Elisa said: “Despite the fact that he had been a very quiet animal, as we got closer to the release site Gregorio changed attitude, he started to get excited and smell the air.
“When we finally released him, Gregorio was overjoyed, and for us it was a really incredible moment.
“We put a radio collar on him, it is a very useful device because it allows you to follow the animal, gather data and see whether what we’ve done has been useful.”