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Southern Europe has a wolf problem

Southern Europe has a wolf problem

Some regions in Spain and Italy are uneasy with the growing populations of this predator

The wolf – the common villain of folk tales is back…sort of. This week news came from different regions in Italy and Spain whose government were calling for tighter controls over the thriving populations of the wild canine predators in Southern Europe. Wolves are protected by EU law but their co-existence with humans in rural regions has always been a source of tension where they are seen as harmful to farmers’ herds.

Attitudes to wolves might also reflect divisions between urban and rural residents

Three years ago, The Guardian reported that The Iberian and Apennine Peninsulas, as well as Romania, were the European areas with the largest wolf populations on the continent. Spain and Portugal probably accounted for some 3000 wolves and Italy had half of that, compared to say Belgium where wolves had been eradicated for decades until they were recently reintroduced.

Southern Europe, however, is also more rural and agriculture and husbandry still play a significant role in economic life there, hence the abundance of wolves might not be seen as favourably.

“Only in Piedmont, there are over 450 specimens of this species, while in all of France their number is about 550. It is evident how such an important presence, with the succession of assaults on animals and approaches to inhabited centres, requires a change of policy, to find rules different from the current ones, so that together with biodiversity, which must be preserved, we can also protect socio-economic categories,” explained Fabio Carosso, Vice-President of Piedmont Region in Italy.

He expressed concerns that the large presence of wolves affects not only farmers and shepherds but also potential tourists and hikers who might be anxious to venture and explore the great outdoors and alpine valleys. That is why Mr Carosso proposed the setting up of a round table that will include representatives from all Alpine regions of Northern Italy to brainstorm ideas on how to tackle this problem.

A similar call was made by the Government of Asturias, which called for an urgent convocation of the Sectorial Conference on the Environment between four northern Spanish regions – Asturias, Galicia, Cantabria and Castilla y Leon, which are home to 95% of the wolf population in the country. The single point on the agenda of the conference? Petitioning the Spanish Ministry of Ecological Transition to not include wolves on the List of wild species under a special protection regime (Lespre).

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