Recently, the first golden jackal was spotted in Finland – the most northern appearance of golden jackals so far. The Golden Jackal is a species closely related to wolf, but of smaller size. They are omnivores and mostly feed on rodents, birds and fruit, as well as scavenge on carcasses. In Europe, golden jackals are native in the Balkans. However, over the last decades they have started spreading all across Europe. Thus, they have now established populations in Slovenia, Austria, Italy and Germany and were spotted in many other countries all over Europe, including Denmark and Estonia, for example.
Please also read: Golden jackal spotted in the Austrian Alps
The spotting of the jackal in Finland triggered a debate on how to manage the newcoming species. Is it an invasive that should be killed, or should the Finnish welcome the jackals as they are spreading naturally?
The definition of an invasive species used by IUCN is that an invasive is a non-native species that adversly affects the habitat it invaded. There are multiple ways in which a species can invade a new environment. This includes for example an intentional release by humans or escape from captivity. However, in invasion they all include some sort of human intervention rather than just natural range expansion of the species. Due to the harm they cause to their environment, the aim is often to persecute and eradicate invasives. Examples include the grey squirrel in the UK, which has decimated the native red squirrel population as it out-competed it.
So, are golden jackals invasive? They spread to Finland naturally, without any human intervention. Therefore, although they are a non-native species, one can hardly claim that they are invasive. Furthermore, the Habitats Directive lists the golden jackal under Annex V as a protected species. This requires EU countries to sustain a favourable population status of the species. This clearly points to the need to accept the golden jackal in the countries where it naturally spreads, rather than eradicate it as an invasive.