The decision by the Gelderland province, located on the Netherlands’s border with Germany, was prompted by a widely circulated video that showed a wolf walking past a young family in Hoge Veluwe National Park.
“We’re dealing with wolves that have become too tame. So we have to deter [them] from people,” a provincial spokesperson told public broadcaster Omroep Gelderland.
Officials chose paintballs as the method of choice because the colored splotches allow wardens to see which wolves are getting too close to park visitors, The Guardian reported. According to a government report released in June, the Netherlands is home to at least 20 adult wolves, including a pack and two pairs in Hoge Veluwe National Park, a pair on the border between the provinces of Drenthe and Friesland, and 11 lone animals across the country.
Park officials at Hoge Veluwe have denied allegations by the environmental organization Faunabescherming, which has accused rangers of intentionally food conditioning the wolves so that they can be killed.
“If the Hoge Veluwe houses a wolf population that behaves significantly differently from all other wolves in the Netherlands and neighboring countries, then there is a very suspicious situation,” the group’s president, Niko Koffeman, told Omroep Gelderland.
According to the BBC, the local government’s decision does not permit anyone to go into Hoge Veluwe National Park and start firing at wolves. Officials have not yet set a date for when the measure will go into effect.