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A 79-year-old German man who has dedicated his life to wolves is only half-human because he lives among the pack, detractors have said.

Werner Freund runs a wolf sanctuary in Merzig, dubbed the City of Wolves, where he has raised 70 of the wild canines over the last three decades. He is said to have spent more time with wolves over the last 40 years than with humans.

The wolves accept him as one of the pack, with Freund competing for raw meat with them, sleeping with them and howling with them.

Before becoming a wolf researcher, Freund was a paratrooper and a professional gardener.

He set up the sanctuary in 1972 and his pack has been acquired iver the years from zoos or animal parks - most have been hand-reared by Freund.

He has 29 wolves that form six packs. He acts as the alpha male around them to ensure they respect and accept him as one of their own.

He said his love of the animals began after a wolf gave him a cub. A wolf named Ivan was rescued and released into an enclosure. He mated with a female who gave birth to cubs. Ivan then took one to Freund. "Ivan brought one of the cubs to us and laid it down," he said. He has dedicated his life to the species ever since.

As well as setting up the 25-acre sanctuary, he has had to change the way he speaks to communicate with the pack. "I had to re-educate my voice as my German dialect sounds quite hard, but the wolves are used to gentle noises."

Reuters photographer Lisi Niesner who spent time getting to know the elusive wolfman said in her blog: "First the alpha male wolf Heiko came towards him and licked his mouth which is a sign of acknowledgment and a sign of membership of the pack.

"After this ritual Werner got the deer cadaver, put it on the ground, lay down and held it in a manner as if it were his prey.

"Unexpectedly the pack was shy and approached carefully. Werner took over his role and bit into the leg of the deer but spat out the raw meat."

Two of the wolves in the sanctuary had a litter of cubs, who Werner taught to feed from his mouth - the whole pack then began to copy their behaviour.

He said, however, that wolves cannot be tamed. "From the moment the wolf cubs taste meat and blood, they turn into predators and cannot be domesticated like dogs," he said.