There are 117 000 golden jackal in Europe, according to a recent assessment by IUCN. This is a huge number of animals to go relatively unnoticed by the European public, especially in comparison to the wolf, whose population is approximately only 17 000 in Europe. How has the golden jackal expanded so quickly through Europe without gaining attention?
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How has the Golden Jackal taken over Europe?
The golden jackal has travelled from the Balkans to Western Europe, and is now expanding into areas outside its former distribution area, such as in France and Denmark. How it is spreading so fast, and what effect it will have, are important questions that we currently do not yet have answers for.
For example, part of the reason behind its quick expansion could be its flexible diet. A golden jackal eats whatever is available – everything from meat to plants, insects and human food waste. Whilst they are a large predator, they do not tend to attack livestock. Instead they prefer smaller prey, or scavenge on preyed animals they come across.
Golden Jackal-Wolf Relationships
Another interesting question that scientists are researching, is the effect of the golden jackal on the wolf, and vice versa. The wolf and golden jackal are competitors for some similar food sources. However, the wolf is much larger than the golden jackal, and so golden jackals generally avoid areas where there is already a strong wolf presence, such as Germany. In general, the wolf restores balance in nature, and so it prevents the over-expansion of golden jackals in an area. On the other hand, in areas like the Baltic, Hungary, Bulgaria, the number of wolves is relatively low. The golden jackal populations there, are large, and continue to grow. In some countries, people have listed the golden jackal as a pest, and hunt hundreds, if not thousands, per year.
This huge expansion of the golden jackal population has been enabled because the wolf was nearly eradicated in Europe. And now that the wolf is naturally returning to its former distribution area, it occupies the publics attention. This allows the golden jackal to expand its population and range without being noticed. Where there is a healthy wolf population, there is scope for a healthy golden jackal population, and a balanced ecosystem.