A new study by German, Australian and American researchers reviewed data from all over the world to determine whether wolves prefer game or livestock as prey. Their conclusion was clear: Wolves prefer game over livestock.
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Even when livestock is abundant in a wolf territory, wolves still mostly feed on wild game. Despite livestock being easy prey, wolves still rather hunt down native ungulates with defense mechanisms like antlers and horns. The study found that, on average, game makes up 65% of the diet of wolves. Livestock only accounts for 13% of the biomass consumed.
Overall, wild prey […] was selected for even when livestock was abundant.
In addition, the study proves that livestock protection measures decrease the amount of attacks. Fencing and guardian animals protect livestock and preventive measures are the best solution, rather than compensation for occured attacks.
In regards to Europe, the study specifically points out that wolves mostly feed on game in Central Europa, where game populations are high. On the other hand, wolves more often prey on livestock in Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece, where ungulate populations were diminished by humans.
This study proves once again that a peaceful coexistence of wolves and farmers is possible. The wolf is part of the natural food web and that is where it looks for its prey. Only if ungulate populations are too low – mostly due to human interference – it has to look for food somewhere else. But even then, protection measures and livestock management can reduce damages.
To improve the livestock protection and coexistence with large carnivores in the Alps, the LIFE project LIFEstockProtect will start in end of 2020. The project brings together farmers and environmentalists from the German-speaking parts of the Alps and promotes livestock protection amongst farmers and local communities.