Wolves return to Madrid after 70 years

In most of Spain, people hunted wolves virtually to extinction during the last century. In the region of Madrid, the last individuals disappeared 70 years ago. However, back in 2013 nature conservationists captured two adult wolves on film in the Guadarrama National Park. Soon it became clear that the wolves would return to Madrid. Five years later, Madrid is home to at least five wolf packs, according to El País.

Slow recovery

Researchers estimate the number of individual wolves between 35 and 40. Compared to the population growth in other European countries, the Spanish population grows slow. This is most likely closely related to the legal culling arrangement in parts of Spain. Along with culling, the number of poached wolves also remains relatively high.

Perhaps even a bigger threat is the road system. According to the official numbers, five wolves died in car-collisions in the last 13 months. Researchers even state that the roads are becoming the main regulator of population growth in the region.

Local farmers oppose

The region of Madrid might not be the first area coming to mind, when you think of a suitable wolf-habitat. However, the number of people living in the areas close to the capital is low. Some regions have less than 10 people per square kilometer. Also the vegetation, with Mediterranean forests, provides the wolves with a suitable place. The forests are home to large numbers of deer and wild boar, the main food source of wolves there.

However, as with many other places, wolves attack livestock occasionally. Livestock owners demand that hunters keep the wolf population under control. Since 2013, the number of wolf attacks on livestock increased from 15 to 398. From the start, the regional government provides financial compensation to support the livestock owners. According to the official numbers, compensation grew to 300 000 Euro this year.

Nevertheless, the livestock owners are not satisfied. Compensation payments are insufficient, they claim. The environmental chief of the region agrees that a better fitting solution has to be found. The most logical step forward is to focus on improvement of livestock protection techniques. Many livestock owners in Spain mainly protect their livestock from escaping, not against predators. A basic requirement of proper protection measures can already significantly reduce the number of conflicts, as other countries have demonstrated before. The guidelines from the European Union are clear, only full compensation is payed when proper protection techniques are in place. Now it is up to the regional authorities to implement these guidelines.

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