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Oceans and land
Somerset police dog praised for successfully tracking suspect
On the track to the moors
Initiative to improve sustainable fish labelling unveiled
Protection of grey wolves may be ended by Obama administration
RSPCA comes under fire for badger cull protests
The rain released from the parched ground that glorious earthy perfume
May's diverse wildlife finds hedgerows the perfect home
The pink-footed geese seemed restless, as if uncertain what they were doing
Study links insecticide use to invertebrate die-offs
Has the internet killed the Loch Ness monster?
Waitrose pledges to source all seafood from independently certified providers
It's the first time I've heard the chiffchaff's song this year
Edinburgh zoo's pandas help boost visitor numbers by 51%
Their bombastic majesties begin the nectar frenzy
Pandas have saved Edinburgh zoo from extinction but what for?
Insecticide spraying will be expanded to control pest caterpillar
This is the EU's best chance in a decade to reduce fish discards
Fish company investigated after salmon farm pollutes Scottish loch
Poachers kill 26 elephants at central African world heritage site
New to nature No 103: Tinkerbella nana
Sand martins dig tunnels in the dunes
World's tallest dam approved by Chinese environmental officials
Justin Bieber 'owes thousands' after leaving monkey hanging in Germany
A brief stillness before the damselfly's short life on the wing would begin
  Wolf walking in Cumbria: the new leaders of the pack
"A i oow oow ooo ooo!" The back-to-pack wolf cry goes spiralling around the forest and in seconds, two wolves come tearing through the trees. They rush up to the pack leaders, eager to know what the emergency is. When they find there is none, they seem momentarily miffed but soon content themselves with pulling some classic wolfish poses on conveniently situated tree stumps. I'm a few yards from them, snapping away with my camera. Being photographed clearly stokes the smouldering coals of their vanity.

This brand new walking-with-wolves experience is a world away from your usual wolf-spotting trip. The latter has to contend with the fact that normally this noble creature, being a blithe and wily spirit, cares nothing for the fact that you have a limited amount of annual leave and an onerous bucket list to tick off. It thus cannot be relied upon to turn up at a prescribed venue at a pre-arranged time, but is happy to condemn you to days of aimless wandering across godless far-flung tundra in the hope that at some stage, your guide will point towards a distant wood and cry: "There's a wolf! That little speck to the right of the ... oh, gone now."

When my friend Kat and I went to see timber wolves Maska and Kajika, we didn't even have to leave the British mainland we simply hopped on a train to the attractive Cumbrian coastal resort of Grange-over-Sands. Furthermore, after some initial sniffing, licking and gentle biting of our outstretched fists, the wolves let us join their incipient pack for an afternoon's sortie, which was pretty obliging really.

We met up with the surrogate leaders of the pack, human bipeds Dee and Daniel (it was they who had howled the back-to-pack cry) at their farmhouse at Ayside, a hamlet perched in the hills a few miles north of Grange. A swift Land Rover ride later and we were in a pine wood above Windermere where brothers Maska and Kajika piled out of the back to begin an instantaneous recce of the area (the wolves live at the farmhouse, under close supervision, rather than roaming completely free). This isn't quite the return of the wolf into the English wilds after 270 years, though, as Dee explains: "These are timber wolves with some Czechoslovakian wolf dog bred into them because it's illegal to let pure-bred wolves run free in Britain." Such a spoilsport, the government.

The siblings, just 24 weeks old yet already somewhat larger than full-grown Alsatians, are vying for the position of alpha male. Maska is noticeably bigger and edges the rough-and-tumbles we watch break out from time to time, but size isn't everything in the lupine world. "Kajika is the one with the natural leadership abilities," Daniel points out, "so he could end up as the leader with Maska as his enforcer." Apparently there are alpha, beta, gamma, delta and even omega wolves, so Maska and Kajika are necessarily keen to nab the top roles before their pack gets any bigger.

As we strolled through the pines the rivals foraged about beneath the trees, building up a mental map of smells while trying to outdo each other, not only in shows of strength but in their ability to make clever decisions and discover important information about their surroundings. We watched them fascinated and, I confess, somewhat smug that we were privy to what was going on in their great big heads. And great big they are, too the brothers will double in size over the next 18 months, weighing in at up to a Baskervillian nine stone.

While Dee fed the boys a treat of cheese straight from a tube (it simulates a mother's teat, apparently), Daniel regaled us with wolfy facts they have eight distinct howls, for example, and their hearing is nine times better than the average dog's and taught us how to stroke them safely. This is essential knowledge when their bite can exert a pressure of 1,500lb per square inch. With my hand at Kajika's jaw-line, I slowly worked my way upwards until his flattened ears gave me the "yes, you can stroke my head" signal. I can tell you, gaining the trust of a wolf is the new swimming with dolphins.

It's fitting that the first place in Britain where you can walk with wolves is very close to the spot where England's last wild wolf was reportedly killed, in the 14th century. The Unsworth's Yard micro-brewery, one of whose ales is the excellent Last Wolf, in the medieval village of Cartmel, is where we were shown a venerable copy of Mrs Jerome Mercier's tale of the killing of the country's final wolf. It involves an unjustly spurned son, a dashed romance, a mysterious knight and a happy ending for all except the wolf.

It's all good courtly stuff. The only fly in the ointment is that wolves are known to have roamed England as late as the 1740s. A more plausible story is that a local landowner organised a mass hunt for a predatory wolf, who was finally cornered on a promontory called Humphrey Headcorrect and there dispatched.

In honour of this benighted beast, we wolfed down a delicious dinner at The Pig and Whistle in Cartmel L'Enclume chef Simon Rogan's first pub venture that included wild mushroom broth and gariguette strawberry pannacotta. And thence back to Grange and the Clare House Hotel, with its old-school comfiness and startling array of local cheeses. Before we turned in for the night, we took a starlit walk along the promenade from where we saw Humphrey Head's huge bulk lowering in the darkness. But what was that sound we could hear on the breeze? The wind playing over the marshes perhaps? Or was it the ghostly howl of England's last wolf calling out to England's newest pack?
Japanese firm stops selling endangered whale pet treats
Comment of the week: why rewilding 'the wild' isn't so wacky
Humaneness of badger cull to be judged on noise of dying animals
Jean-Jacques Annaud: 'People who make films are in danger every day'
An oystercatcher rises surreptitiously, suggesting that it has a nest nearby
Short-haired bumblebee queens hoped to boost UK population
Badger vaccination 'would be cheaper to implement than cull'
Atlantic puffin population is in danger, scientists warn
Jellyfish surge in Mediterranean threatens environment and tourists
Lord's Resistance Army funded by elephant poaching, report finds
Why did dinosaurs evolve feathers?
Why the celebrity status of badgers is a problem
'Badger-friendly' milk to be sold in just three UK supermarkets
Labour fails in attempt to stop badger cull with Commons vote
Orange tip butterflies are so fragile, yet survive violent rainstorms intact
A cetti's warbler bursts into violent exclamation
Tammy the anteater to greet fans in London Zoo late-night walkabouts
Cod stocks recover after years of overfishing
Are some animals more worth saving than others?
Thai police discover 14 albino lions in warehouse near Bangkok
White lion breeding at UK wildlife parks linked to 'canned hunting'
Is the rise in antibiotic use on farms a threat to humans?
Stop using birdsong apps, nature reserve tells visitors
Cheetahs 'more powerful than a motorbike'
Meet Ming, the panda who left China to boost Britain's wartime morale
Badger cull activists can 'bend the rules' during protests, say police
RSPB accused of hypocrisy for killing hundreds of birds on its reserves
Wolf walking in Cumbria: the new leaders of the pack
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Marine Harvest agrees to limit pesticides and seal killings
Schmallenberg vaccine available to UK farmers this summer
Cat wars break out in New Zealand
Racing pigeon sold for record £260,000
Most UK species in decline, wildlife stocktake shows
Hedgehogs are disappearing fast gardeners to the rescue
I've often seen bees infested with mites, but rarely one so heavily laden
Government licensed secret buzzard egg destruction, documents reveal
Hedgehogs have everything they need in this garden
China reports rise in humans encountering wild Siberian tigers
New to nature special: the top 10 new species
Zoo keeper mauled by tiger 'broke safety rules'
Industry, fires and poachers shrink Sumatran tigers' last stronghold
The swift is a bird that screams of the Earth's intricate interconnectedness
Tiger that killed zoo worker 'dragged her into its enclosure'
Culls risk illegally exterminating badgers, animal expert warns
Counting the cost: fears badger cull could worsen bovine TB crisis
My manifesto for rewilding the world
Ban Ki-moon to warn UN security council of dangers of wildlife trafficking
Beaver kills man in Belarus
GM 'hybrid' fish pose threat to natural populations, scientists warn
The beaver from Belarus and other deadly animals
Ants in Germany repeatedly ring woman's doorbell
A nightly procession of pheasants, ducks, deer and badgers in the garden
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