The wolf needs more training

The recent news and statistics revealed that wolves would need much better training to survive. Particularly education on the subject of geography. The wolf must understand much better where the boundaries of the particular countries are. Why? The reason for this conclusion is that the current wolf management policy differ pretty much from country to country.

One example is the border between Slovakia and Poland. Wolf naturally migrate from Poland to Slovakia and other way around. In Poland the wolf is protected year around. However, in Slovakia, there is a legally approved hunting wolf quota. Therefore, when a wolf accidentally crosses the border to the Slovakian side, it becomes subject to the hunting quota. Consequently, wolfs which are subjects of regular monitoring and telemetry in Poland can be easily killed on the Slovakian side. Recently, Polish managers dealt with the problem of the suspected poaching of a monitored wolf named Halka.

Wolf in Slovakia

Until 1975, the wolf in Slovakia was not protected and was subject of hunting throughout the country. Even after the introduction of wolf’s partial protection in 70s, the areas for wolf protection have not been specifically declared. The first signs of wolf protection, at least in some areas of Slovakia have been initiated either by the international conventions to which Slovakia has acceded or by the requirements of neighbouring countries.

Overall, more than 1760 wolves have been legally hunted throughout Slovakia since 2000. The conservationists also point out additional problem that is threatening the wolf population – poaching – wolves caught outside the quota and natural mortality. That means that wolves that died because of eg. collisions with cars or trains, or found without stating the cause of death, are not counted against the agreed annual quotas.

The quota system

Currently the wolf is a priority species of European importance and is protected under the Habitats Directive. This means that the protection of wolves requires the designation of special protected areas and also requires strict protection. However, the Slovak Republic put into effect geographical exemption from Annex IV of the Habitats Directive, which means that it may be subject to certain regulatory measures. In practice that means legal hunting of an agreed quota.

In a practice this means that the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of Slovakia, in agreement with the Ministry of Environment, determines the annual quota for wolf hunt based on proposals from the advisory councils within each hunting unit.

Since 2010, 60 wolves have been killed in the surrounding of the Tatra National Park Administration (2010-2016 – 31 wolves, 2016/17 – 7, 2017/18 and 2018/19, each with 5 wolves, 2020 already 12 wolves). The park administration sees the reason why so many wolves have been shot in the park surrounding: in the past the ministry has determined how many wolves can be killed in the particular region, but this years this limitation is not valid any more. Additionally, there is also no longer a rule to not hunt an alpha female.

Wolf protection in Slovakia since 2016 (red coloured areas)

From paying reward to full protection

Wolf is a good example how attitude of society is changing. In the 70s, the Slovakian government even paid the reward for every single killed wolf. Afterwards, the complex and long-term Slovakian and later on European Union legislation process ended up with the current situation when the the management of the wolf is mainly based on the quota system. However, more and more frequently, the public is requesting for protection of this animal. For example, the most recent call came in 2019 from 29 organizations to stop wolf hunting and introduce year-round protection. In addition, in 2019, a nonprofit organisation Wolf asked Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to set a zero quota and Ministry of Environment to push this zero quota concept into the legislation.

The wolf pack used to be permanent dwellers of my region for years. The local people, hunters, foresters complained and expressed concern such as safety, killing too many deers, strayed dogs and sheep. But generally the pack become an important part of locals ecosystems. As soon as the wolf hunting quota had passed in 2019, this story become a history

Vlado Vancura
European Wilderness Society Deputy Director

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