The Howl of the Wolf is heard once again in the woods of Galway
Over the last few weeks, a number of schools have taken part in guided tours of Terryland Forest Park. As part of the Galway National Park City initiative promoting the ‘Outdoor Classroom’ ethos, and to celebrate the park’s 21 years, we are developing a series of natural heritage sculpture trails for the benefit of visitors of all ages that will be fully in place by July with drawings by ‘artist in residence’, the highly talented Helen Caird, and stone carvings by the equally gifted Ray Flaherty.
One of these exciting and educational tracks is called ‘Extinction’ dedicated to the apex fauna of Ireland that were driven to extinction in previous centuries for many of the same reasons that are occurring today in Amazonia, Indonesia and Africa- namely deforestation, habitat loss, large scale farming, industrial activity and hunting.
The wolf is one of the animals carved into large stones along the trail.
The Grey Wolf species lived in Ireland for almost 28,000 years.
The animal had a somewhat uneasy relationship with the Gael. Whilst they were sometimes hunted to protect livestock, nevertheless in Celtic mythology the wolf was admired for its bravery and was associated with legendary warriors, kings and early Christian saints. There are very few references in Gaelic sources of wolves attacking people. As one of its Irish names (Mac Tíre = son of the land) alludes too, it was accepted as an intrinsic part of the natural landscape with the howling of a wolf pack not feared but rather viewed as uplifting music. British colonists however saw the wolf as a danger to their way of life. The large scale destruction of the Irish forests from the 17th century, to make way for pasture lands for sheep and cattle, led to its extinction. Wolves were systematically persecuted, public hunts were organised and large rewards (bounties) offered for their killing. The last known record of a wolf in Galway (Castlegar) was from the 1740s- it disappeared altogether from Ireland in the 1780s.