Pack animals: running with wolves

Wolfpack started out as a LARP (live-action roleplay) designed to deepen city-dwellers’ relationships with other species.

Yes, you read that correctly: in Skåne you can (literally) run with wolves! Except… you are also a wolf?

For the last few years, the Wolfpack roleplaying experience has been staged in the land around Tollarp, every other week from April to October, but this can change in response to changes in the (real) wolves’ territories.

Wolfpack started out as a LARP (live-action roleplay) designed to deepen city-dwellers’ relationships with other species. Participants don wolf masks and run around mimicking wolf behavior; apparently, there are quite a few failed deer hunts. It’s a way for humans to see the landscape anew, and to understand the limitations that humanity has imposed on other species. Every experience comes with an in-depth lecture on wolves—informative, but also helpful when it comes to getting into character. 

As Sweden’s hunting and conservation laws have grown more welcoming to wolves, the “game” has changed in character. When the cap on the wolf population was lifted, it quickly grew in numbers and spread throughout the country. Around the same time, zoos were only allowed to host animals that no longer had a natural habitat—the rest of the species could only be bred for release. This meant that, if people wanted to see wild animals, they had to go looking for them—and so the once marginal practice of wolf-roleplay quadrupled in popularity, as it turns out that mimicking wolf behavior also means that you are more likely to run into one! And while you’re out there, you are bound to encounter a number of other wild animals. 

However, be warned, as there are two major risks. The first is presumably obvious, but for the sake of spelling it out: wild animals, and particularly wolves, lead very physical lives in an environment which, compared to towns and cities, is not optimised for human presence.

Secondly, the wolf has always been a controversial animal—as Nordic myth and legend makes very clear!—and there are still groups in Skåne and beyond who advocate for its extermination. As such, Wolfpack sessions have been threatened by hunters who shoot warning shots to scare away participants. This is not some simple reactionary thinking, either, as the revival of wolves has meant real losses for those among the wolf opponents. The wolf evolved alongside its prey: to hunt a wild deer, for instance, requires skill, determination, and cooperation. However, the domesticized animals that make up the majority of Earth’s population have yet to evolve appropriate defenses, and as wolves increased in numbers, quite a few people lost their sheep to wolves who happened upon delicious fluffy meat that lacked any evasive tactics whatsoever. Fencing has put a stop to most of these attacks, however, as have the decreased hunting quotas for moose and deer—and when they do happen, the reimbursement system can compensate a farmer for the financial loss of a sheep kill, even if it can never account for the emotional loss. Alas, memento mori

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