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Wolves

There are probably more than 10,000 wolves in Europe. They occur in all countries except the island states (Ireland, Iceland, United Kingdom, Cyprus and Malta) and the Benelux countries. At least 10 main wolf populations can be identified: north-western Iberian, Sierra Morena (southern Spain), Alpine, Italian Peninsula, Carpathian, Dinaric-Balkan, Baltic, Karelian, Scandinavian and Central European Lowlands (Fig. 4.2). The largest populations are in southern and Eastern Europe such as the Carpathian and the DinaricBalkan populations (> 3000 wolves each), followed by the north-western Iberian (~ 2500 wolves) and the Baltic (> 1000 wolves). Other populations are an order of magnitude smaller (numbering in the low hundreds with the Italian Peninsula population being somewhat larger, in the range of 600–800 wolves) and the Sierra Morena population in southern Spain now reduced to just one pack detected in 2012. No wolf reintroductions (i.e. release of individuals where the species had been exterminated in historical times) have ever been carried out in Europe, although most recently there have been a few translocations of individuals within wolf range inside Sweden.

Trends in numbers and range size are generally positive since the last estimates in 2005. With the exception of Sierra Morena population, all populations are either stable or increasing and there is good evidence of large dispersal movements potentially re-connecting populations, such as the Alpine and Dinaric or the Scandinavian and Karelian. However, some countries have seen their national estimates decreasing such as Albania, Finland, Macedonia, and Portugal for the subpopulation south of the Douro River, where the social, ecological and political conditions for wolf acceptance have significantly deteriorated recently.

Most European wolves are covered by the full protection offered (with derogations possible under article 16) by Annexes II (requires establishment of Natura 2000 sites) and IV (strict protection) of the Habitats Directive although there are several exceptions of countries that have their wolf populations (or just part of it) in Annex V (which permits regulated harvest): for example, the Baltic countries,

Fig. 4.2  Distribution of wolves and their populations in Europe in 2012. Dark cells permanent occurrence, Grey cells sporadic occurrence. (From Kaczensky et al 2013)

Bulgaria, Poland, Slovakia, parts of Greece and parts of Finland. Depredation by wolves on livestock is one of the most ancient conflicts that humans have sustained against wildlife and it is still widespread across Europe. The total economic loss is estimated to be in the range of 8 million € and about 20,000 domestic animals, mostly sheep, are killed annually with huge variations between countries. The costs of adopting damage prevention measures can also be significant, and in some countries is far greater than the cost of damage prevention. In addition to the economic and material costs of livestock depredation, many hunters perceive wolves as competitors for shared game. Moreover, wolves have generated a wide range of, often intense, social and political conflicts in western and northern Europe, as they have become political symbols for many social issues including urban vs. rural and modern vs. traditional tensions. Although historical evidence indicates that wolf attacks on humans were widespread in the past, there have only been a handful of exceptional cases detected during the last century (Linnell et al. 2002).

Eurasian Lynx

The total number of lynx in Europe is estimated to be 9000-10,000 individuals. They occur in 23 countries divided into 10 main populations (Fig. 4.3): five of these ten populations are autochthonous (Scandinavian, Karelian, Baltic, Carpathian and Balkan), the other populations stem from reintroductions in the 1970s and 1980s (Dinaric, Alpine, Jura, Vosges-Palatinian and BohemianBavarian) (Linnell et al. 2009). Of the autochthonous populations, only the Balkan one is of conservation concern, having been reduced to about 40–50 individuals and showing no signs of significant recovery. The reintroduced populations are all small in the range of 20 individuals in the Vosges-Palatinian to about 150 in the Alpine population. In addition, lynx roam the Harz Mountains of central Germany because of recent reintroductions.

The general trend in numbers is stable or slightly increasing, although there is some concern for the long-term viability of the reintroduced populations due to small population effects and the risk of inbreeding. Most of the lynx populations are strictly protected and derogations under article 16 of the Habitats Directive are used to harvest the populations in Sweden, Latvia and Finland. Estonia is unique within the EU having the lynx on annex V, which permits regulated harvest as a game species. Large conflicts with livestock owners are limited to the northern populations. The only country with a major conflict with sheep is Norway, where about 7000– 10,000 sheep are compensated annually. In addition, thousands of semi-domestic reindeer deaths are attributed to lynx depredation annually in Norway, Sweden and Finland. Elsewhere the level of livestock depredation is very small. However, the level of conflict with hunters is widespread across Europe who perceive lynx as a competitor for wild ungulates, especially roe deer (Breitenmoser et al. 2010).

 
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