Les Loups du Gevaudan – Saint-Léger-de-Peyre, France - Atlas Obscura

Les Loups du Gevaudan

Saint-Léger-de-Peyre, France

A sanctuary for wolves in a community which once trembled in fear of the murderous "Beast of Gévaudan." 


Home to over one hundred wolves, roaming in two huge swaths of parkland, the modern day wolves of Gévaudan are welcome residents in an area once made famous for its murderous, wolf-like “Beast of Gévaudan.”

For three years from 1764 to 1767, the citizens of the area then known as Gévaudan (now Lozère) lived in fear of a near mythical beast, with a very real blood lust. It has been estimated that over a hundred people were killed, and dozens more survived to tell harrowing takes of an enormous, red-black animal with fearsome fangs and mighty claws.

The terror started a wolf-hunting frenzy, finally culminating in the killing of a beast in June of 1767 in the nearby mountains by local farmer by the name of Jean Chastel. Since those days, the wild wolf has been hunted in to extinction in France and most of Western Europe. It is only in recent years that small wild populations have started to reemerge from remote strongholds.

Taking its name from the mythical beast, Les Loups du Gévaudan park began in 1961 when naturalist Gerard Menatory adopted two wolves, and moved to the area where the Beast of Gévaudan once prowled. Inspired to start a sanctuary, the park opened to visitors in 1985, with just a small population of wolves. In 1991, the Brigitte Bardot Foundation gave a gift of 80 wolves, endangered and hunted in their native Siberia, dramatically increasing the population.

Dedicated to protecting its resident wolves, as well as to the the mission of repairing the reputation of the wolf in France, the park also has a small museum dedicated to wolf history and art, as well as the gristly local story of the Beast of Gévaudan.

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