EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen received news on Friday that her 30-year-old pony “Dolly” was mauled by a wolf and killed at her estate in Beinhorn near Hanover, Germany. The local mayor blamed the state environment ministry for inaction, while the minister urged the federal authorities in Berlin to streamline the procedure for shooting wolves that get too close to people or livestock.
“The whole family is terribly upset by the news,” von der Leyen’s spokesman told the Hannoverische Allgemeine Zeitung (HAZ) on Friday. The pony was discovered in the morning by von der Leyen’s husband, in a paddock on her property.
There were “several pools of blood” that “could indicate an agonizing death,” HAZ reported, citing the neighbors, but the exact circumstances of the incident are still being investigated by the agriculture ministry. The horse in the next paddock over, who had a foal, was reportedly fine.
Christian Budde, a spokesman for the Environment Ministry in Hanover, said a wolf attack was “very likely” to blame due to the bite pattern, and that DNA samples were taken to identify the culprit. A wolf attack claimed the lives of two more ponies in nearby Lehrte, almost two weeks ago.
Beinhorn mayor Klaus Koeneke lamented the “unfortunate” incident, but blamed Budde’s boss, Lower Saxony Environment Minister Olaf Lies. The ministry, says Koeneke, did nothing, even after a stray wolf was reported in the middle of Hanover in mid-August.
Lies told HAZ that the problem was with the federal government, which needs to create a legal framework for faster interventions. There are more and more situations where wolves are getting too close to people and livestock in the northern German state, but federal laws protecting endangered species make it difficult to do anything about it. As it is, action can only be taken “when it’s too late,” Lies told the outlet.
Some 40 wolf packs roam Lower Saxony as of August, the ministry said, citing the estimates by local hunters’ associations, and describing the animals as “unobtrusive.”
Von der Leyen’s family has had an estate near Hanover for decades, where they keep horses and ponies. She served as a federal cabinet minister for almost 15 years, starting in family affairs and moving to labor and then defense, while advancing in the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party to deputy leader. Von der Leyen, 63, has been president of the European Commission since July 2019.