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After hesitating a few seconds in front of the people who came to watch, Ahinoam the female wolf scampered out of her cage. She had been brought from the Ramat Gan safari park to the wide-open spaces of the Gilboa Mountains in the north, chalking up a success for a project devoted to returning wolves to the wild.

(Scroll down to see Ahinoam's return to the wild)

Ahinoam had been seriously injured when her leg was caught in a hunter's trap on the Palestinian side of the separation fence. Soldiers of the Israeli armored corps spotted her and alerted Roi Ben-Yosef, an inspector from the Israel Nature and National Parks Protection Authority, who rushed the wolf to the safari's veterinary hospital.

Dr. Yigal Horowitz of the animal hospital said the wolf's leg had now healed completely, but Ahinoam's contact with humans could affect her behavior in the wild.

However, "from the way the wolf resisted getting into the cage, it was clear we were witnessing the behavior of a wild animal," he said.

Ahinoam was released to the wild Tuesday in the presence of the soldiers who had saved her life. She has been fitted with a transponder around her neck to allow her movements to be traced. Dr. Horowitz noted that two wolf packs are known to make their home in the Gilboa Mountains.

"We hope she joins one of them," he said.

In addition to hunter's traps, the wolves in the area must contend with another danger. One of the main staples of the wolves' diet is sheep and cows, and in recent months two wolves in the Gilboa region have been shot dead after finding their way into a farm's cow shed. The killing of the wolves was authorized by the the parks authority to safeguard the livelihoods of the livestock owners.

(Photos: Tomer Neuberg / Jini)