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14.12.2011. Author administrator

Wolf Situation in the EU

Federation of Associations for Hunting and Conservation of the EU (FACE) has worked a lot to convince the authorities that the hunter has to be the part of management of the wolf populations in the EU. Here is their point of view on this issue.

Wolves are emotive creatures. The relationship between man and wolf is interwoven in our history and shrouded in myth. Hunted to extinction in many countries, they evoke a certain nostalgia for a lost wilderness.

Wolves – gladly – are on the comeback. The reasons why they were hunted so vehemently still remain despite the changes in our shared landscape, legislation and approach.

The conservation and coexistence of large carnivores and humans is a challenge in Europe, because only a few European areas are able to accommodate the home ranges of large carnivores. As a result their presence in multi-use landscapes leads to a number of conflicts with human interests. Recently there has been an increased focus on wolf management in Europe as this species has showed an increased adaptability to expand into these multi-use landscapes. At the same time this expansion has forced an increased polarisation between rural and urban people and conservationists vs protectionists. Wolves are large carnivores. They require vast territories. It doesn’t take long for them to run into humans – and their livestock. This reignites serious man/wolf conflicts, only this time, Europe is far more densely populated and developed: conflicts are sharper than ever before. People living in wolf-inhabited rural areas have great problems and are often reluctant to accept more wolves.

Hunting is a management action aimed at simultaneously solving socio-economic problems: the use of hunters as agents for wolf conservation is both a practical measure and a deliberate attempt to reduce conflict by empowering rural residents to act in a sustainable, respectful and controlled framework.

FACE Experts from the national hunting and conservation associations of 6 EU Member States involved in managing wolves, met informally with EU Environment Commissioner Potocnik in Brussels to discuss the management of large carnivores in Europe. FACE is urging the Commission to implement its own guidelines and allow for early management options of growing wolf populations especially if we are to make a success of the wolf’s European return. In addition FACE is further urging the Commission to facilitate dialogue between various stakeholders in the debate on large carnivore management. The Commissioner was most constructive in the discussions but also pointed out that whilst the EU can provide the framework it is up to the Member States to implement their management plans within these provisions and in line with their national situations.

The second day of the visit centred on a special Conference in the European Parliament dedicated to large carnivore management. Under the auspices of the Parliament’s Sustainable Hunting Intergroup and its President, MEP Véronique Mathieu, the President of the Fédération Nationale des Chasseurs, Bernard Baudin, and the President of the Swedish Hunters’ Association, Torsten Mörner, presented large carnivore management in their respective countries. The Director of the Nature Directorate in DG ENV, Pia Bucella and Head of the Nature Unit Stefan Leiner, represented the European Commission in the discussion that followed. They explained that the Commission’s role is to uphold the minimum framework provided for by the EU Habitats Directive but that it is up to the Member States to decide on the implementing details on how the Directive’s conservation objective shall be achieved.

The reality is that wolf populations are increasing and on the move: today the focus of wolf conflict in the EU is not only confined to Sweden who face ongoing infringement proceedings launched by the Commission in mid-June 2011 against certain parts of the Swedish wolf policy, including the licensed wolf hunt during 2010 and 2011. In Germany, wolves are spreading, Individuals have arrived in Switzerland and in France, wolves have reached 2 new Départements.

Wolves will probably continue to spread and recolonise areas but will do so in a climate of increasing conflict. We should learn from the situation in America in which the wolf recovered but continued to be heavily protected to a point where there has been a major backlash against wolves. Montana has achieved a population of almost 1000 individuals and their legislators have, in response to public pressure, now voted to have this reduced to no more than 150 individuals, because society was ignored.

Hunters are a unique bridge towards the best solutions and FACE and its Members are working hard to ensure the best outcome for both wolf and man.


Photo: Martin Hoejsgaard
Tags: wolf hunting, wolf population


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