Wolf in the Alps: Conflicting Positions

The presence of wolves is often a controversial issue throughout Europe, particularly in the last several years as more and more wolves have found more suitable living conditions beyond their ‘traditional’ home in Eastern Europe. A complex discussion is going on in the Alps. Some groups state that the wolf has no place in the alpine ecosystem anymore because the Alps are a human oriented cultural landscape and should not be converted into nature or national parks for the benefit of wild animals like wolves. On the other hand, rapidly growing groups of individuals and environmental NGOs strongly support the reemergence of carnivores like the  wolf in the Alps.  From their perspective, this is considered as a signal that ecological conditions are improving!

An interesting aspect of these statements coming from several countries in Alps is their decreasing anthropocentric focus. Also more and more professional park and Wilderness area managers, for example the council  of Hohe Tauern National Park, have decided that the wolf, bear and lynx are welcome if they settle naturally by themselves. In accordance with this policy, the Park authorities do not proactively reintroduce these species. To support this policy, management of the National Parks are thinking about communicating this concept to the population in the regional settlements of the Hohe Tauern region (mainly regarding the wolf, because bear and lynx do not find an optimal living space in the high alpine region without large and connected forest areas). One tool that can be used to help implement this approach is a process financed by the Salzburg provincial government for compensation for livestock depredation, mainly sheep. Another example is in the Eastern Tyrolean part of the National Park Hohe Tauern where this year one sheep farmer will conduct an experiment in protecting sheep with a special kind of guardian dogs (Great Pyrenees). We certainly welcome the wolf in the Alps and especially in National Park Hohe Tauern, if it decides to relocate to the lovely Austrian Alps.

Vlado Vancura

Vlado Vancura is the Deputy Chairman and Director of wilderness of the European Wilderness Society and is based in Liptovsky Hradok, Slovakia.

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