The protected status of the wolf is determined by the EU. Yet, EU countries determined what this status practically implies by including the species in different Annexes of the Flora and Fauna Habitats Directive. Therefore, countries like Slovakia, as well as regions of Spain can still legally cull wolves to a certain level. Yet, even Spain stopped the wolf culling activities last season. In the meantime, illegal killing of wolves continues to happen in many other countries. Here are a few highlights that need international attention.
The Norwegian regional Large Carnivores Committee recently made the decision to kill three wolf packs in the so-called wolf zones this winter. The wolf-zones are actually areas where wolves should be able to live, instead of being shot. This means that Norwegian hunters will try to kill another 17 wolves. Many Norwegian organisations have appealed to the Ministry of Environment to call stop the killing. The Ministry will decide on the situation in November.
The decision follows many killings and demonstrations against it in Norway and across the world. Last year, Norway planned to kill half of its entire wolf population even. The Scandinavian wolf population is severely suffering from these impacts. There is less genetic exchange between populations, due to the fact that many migrating wolves die along the way. And the so-called genetic inbreeding is used as an argument to reduce the wolf population size again. Yet, scientific evidence shows that the Scandinavian wolf population can recover, if people let it. On the 26th of October, people will go to the streets to demonstrate against this decision as well.
Norway has continued killing wolves despite clear scientific evidence of the negative genetic impact on the population.
Denmark saw the return of the wolf happening in 2012 after almost 200 years. However, in 2019 a hunter shot one of the few wolves in Denmark. The hunter was captured on video and arrested. The court decided in August last year that the hunter got a sentence of just 40 days probation. In addition, the hunter lost his hunting license now too. But the story of Danish wolves does not stop there. According to reporting, at least 7 wolves have gone ‘missing’ in Denmark since 2012. The mysterious dissappearances of wolves has also led to scientific research highlight the problem or poaching in Denmark
The latest news is from Belgium, which welcomed the wolf back after more than 100 years of absence. The she-wolf named Naya found a male partner August in the Belgian forests. Earlier this year, camera traps photographed her as she showed signs of being pregnant. However, since 4.5 months there has been no sign of her or the pups. August still roams the woods, but the official news came out this weeks that hunters most likely have killed Naya.
Although clear evidence is still lacking, experts state it is very unlikely that the wolf died of other causes. The official research still has to provide proof of what happened to the Belgian wolf, however.
Austria is one of the last European countries where the wolf resettled in 2016. Since the wolves appeared back in Austria in 2009 after 127 years, groups demanded to keep the whole country or large parts wolf-free. Nevertheless, within two years three wolf packs had settled down in Austria. But in 2019 Austria lost two packs two to poaching (Info in German), which set backs the return of the wolf in Austria massively. Poaching, fueled by unscientific demands for wolf-free zones, is the reason why wolves return to Austria so slowly compared to other surrounding countries. Nevertheless the number of Wolf Packs has increased to already 7 in the last years.
With a population of around 500 wolves, France decided to raise its hunting quota from 12% to 19% of its wolf population earlier this year. The quota was fulfilled with 96 kills in 2019 and the French governments decided to renew the quota for the following years. Despite the intense hunting, livestock predation did not decrease. So NGO Ferus calls to action to stop this cruel wolf “management”, which apparently does not have any benefits.
Due to special provisions, wolf culling is officially allowed as a management tool in Slovakia. However, killing the alpha male and female of a pack, leaving behind the pups, can hardly be described as management. In Tatra National park, ten wolves were killed in 2019, which is too much for such a small area.
Recent reports from South Tyrol also indicate that illegal killing of wolves exists. Günter Unterthiner from the South Tyrolean forest service reported about poisoned baits and baits laced with glass shrapnels.
Killing wolves is not the solution for the problems that hunters and farmers are facing. Effective livestock protection measures are more effectively contributing to human-wolf coexistence than killing wolves. Practical examples from many different countries and regions prove that it can work. It is up to the people to decide whether they accept that the wolf returned.