A grey wolf has lately been trotting its way around Flanders, the northern part of Belgium: the first of its kind officially confirmed in the country in more than 100 years.

The Belgian nature organisation Landschap reported the radio-collared canid hailed from Germany, where Eurasian wolves have staged a comeback in recent years. The wolf slipped into the Netherlands sometime around Christmas, then navigated Dutch terrain from north to south to cross into Belgium’s Limburg province on January 2.

“The animal has traveled more than 500 kilometres in 10 days,” Landschap noted on its Facebook page, and said the wolf had most recently been located near Beringen and Leopoldsburg in eastern Flanders.

In 2011, a film crew captured trail-camera footage of a probable wolf near Gedinne in the Ardennes of southern Belgium, though the animal’s identity was confirmed through DNA analysis or subsequent sightings:

In a "rewilding" trend cheered by conservationists but decried by others, wolves have recolonised significant portions of their former range in Europe in recent decades, spreading back into the Central European Lowlands of Poland and Germany from Baltic strongholds and into the Western Alps from the Italian Appenines. A 2014 review of the status of Europe’s large carnivores published in Science suggested wolves had been the most successful in adapting to the continent’s heavy modern human footprint. Legal protection and habitat restoration have provided a boost for this re-expansion; so have burgeoning populations of many native European ungulates – read: wolf chow – such as roe deer and wild boar.

The wolf’s reoccupation of modern Germany began in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Today, more than a dozen packs call Deutschland home, mostly in the northeast.

As wolves expand both there and in the French Alps, conservationists have expected them to increasingly disperse into the Low Countries. In 2011, the first wolf confirmed since the late 19th century – a German male aptly nicknamed "Wanderwolf" – briefly cruised the Netherlands; in 2017, three wolves separately crossed into the country from Germany, including a male killed that March on the A29 motorway.

With a population density of some 370 people per square kilometre, Belgium might seem unlikely country for a big carnivore. But the grey wolf’s reappearance in former haunts of Central and Western Europe has helped prove (as have other fronts of wolf recolonisation) that the species does not require vast blocks of remote, sparsely inhabited wilderness to survive. A 2012 habitat-modeling analysis of the wolf’s future prospects in the Netherlands estimated as many as 14 packs could inhabit the country. Studies from Germany show packs prospering in territories with as low as about eight percent forest cover, suggesting that, with adequate prey populations, wolves can get by in the sort of landscape spectrum of agricultural fields, woodlots, towns, and cities that defines so much of modern Europe.

“Whereas large carnivores do not permanently occur in the areas of highest human density in Europe,” the authors of that 2014 Science assessment of European large carnivores wrote, “they have shown an ability to recolonize areas with moderate human densities if they are allowed, and to persist in highly human-dominated landscapes and in the proximity of urban areas in highly fragmented landscapes consisting of forest-farmland mosaics or even agro-ecosystems.”

Belgium's wayfaring wolf comes on the heels of other exciting news on the European Canis lupus beat: In 2017, a she-wolf born to a pack south of Berlin showed up in Denmark, where male wolves have been seen over the past few years; experts suspect the formation of that country's first known wolf pack in some 200 years: