Europe is truly beginning to become wild again.
If we talk about large carnivores in Europe, we always talk about Wolf, Bear, Lynx and Wolverine, but we never talk about the Golden Jackal. Almost unnoticed by the public, the Golden Jackal is staging a come back that is far more impressive than any of the other carnivores. During the Large Carnivore conference in Rožnov pod Radhoštěm, Czech Republic, scientists and researchers from Hungary and Serbia alerted the audience to start focusing on a large scale return of the Golden Jackal all across Europe. Austria hs for example started a monitoring programme.
The Golden Jackal is basically a social species typically consisting of a breeding pair and any offspring it might have. The Golden Jackal is very adaptable, an omnivorous and opportunistic forager being able to exploit many food sources, from fruit and insects to small ungulates.
The public often mistakes the Golden Jackal for a small grey wolf. The difference are in fact only subtle, where the Golden Jackal is more slender built, has a narrower, more pointed muzzle, a shorter tail, and a lighter tread than the grey wolf. Its winter fur also differs from a wolf’s by its more fulvous-reddish colour.
The Eurasians male and female Golden Jackals average in length about 120–125 cm and 10–15 kg in body weight. Golden Jackals frequently hybrid with dogs and wolves and their offspring are larger and heavier.
The Golden Jackal can be source of concern for live stock farmers, attacking typically domestic animals such as turkeys, lambs, sheep, goats, and smaller game species and typically smaller wild game like newborn roe deer, hares, pheasants, partridges and waterfowl. As omnivores they also eat grapes, watermelons and nuts. In southern Bulgaria for example, 1,053 attacks on small stock, mainly sheep and lambs, were recorded between 1982 and 1987, along with some damages to newborn deer in game farms.
Golden Jackal and the Wolf
The jackal’s recent expansion throughout eastern and western Europe has been attributed to historical decreases of wolf populations combined with a warmer climate due to climate change. The present diffusion of the Golden Jackal in the northern Adriatic hinterland seems to be in rapid expansion in various areas where the wolf is absent or very rare. Golden Jackals and Wolves have been observed to feed side by side without any hostility. It is also know that Wolves and Jackals sometimes breed.
From southern Europe to the Baltic and Atlantic
Bulgaria has the largest jackal population in Europe, which went through a 33–fold increase in range from the early sixties to mid-eighties and now is estimated at more than 5000 animals.
Golden Jackal populations have been increasing in Serbia since the late 1970s, In Croatia a 2007 survey reported 19 jackal packs, in Slovenia, they have also established a permanent presence. It is obvious that the species continues to expand towards Central Europe.
In Hungary, Golden Jackals having returned in the late 1970s, they now are estimated to outnumber red foxes.
In Italy the species is found especially but not limited to the Friuli Venezia Giulia, Veneto and Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol region. It is expected that they move south and further to the west to France and Switzerland.
Recently, an isolated population was confirmed in western Estonia, much further north than their common range and Golden Jackals were caught on camera traps in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in Germany at the Baltic sea.
One of the latest surprising findings included a roadkilled Golden Jackal in Denmark and confirmed camera trap sighting in the Netherlands.
Looking at this rapid expansion of their territory, the Golden Jackal is here to stay and will complicate the return of the Wolves even more, considering that their prey patterns overlap.
Ruling out massive extermination measures against this animal due to public pressure and a new nature conservation attitude in Europe, we must start to include this carnivore into our large carnivores activities and projects to minimize damages and alert the public. Europe is truly beginning to become wild again.