Hybridization control news

Dedicated Local Plan for the management of wolf-dog hybridisation transmitted

12 May 2022
Aree protette appennino piemontese - APAP

The “Dedicated Local Plan” for the management of anthropogenic wolf-dog hybridisation in the population of the Apennine corridor in Piedmont has been transmitted for the request of authorisation for the first experimental capture

After the consultation period from the 1st to the 11th of April, the Ente di gestione delle Aree Protette Appennino Piemontese forwarded to the coordinator of the European project Life WolfAlps EU the “Dedicated Local Plan” for the management of anthropogenic wolf-dog hybridisation in the population of the Piedmont Apennine corridor, drawn up through a participatory decision-making procedure in synergy with the competent government authorities, institutions and national and regional technical bodies, which involved the territory’s stakeholders in the period between February and March 2022.

The Presence of Hybrids in the Aree Protette Appennino Piemonte

During the wolf monitoring activities conducted by the Piedmont Apennine Protected Areas Management Authority, with the technical-scientific coordination of Dr. Francesca Marucco, thanks to funding from the Piedmont Region – Biodiversity and Natural Areas Sector with the funds of the 2014-2020 Rural Development Plan Operation 7.1.2 within the broader PANTA (Pianificazione Aree Naturali in Territorio Appenninico) project, it was possible to document the presence of potential wolf-dog hybrids.

The area concerned is located in the south-west portion of the Province of Alessandria in the municipalities of Morbello and Ponzone and within the SAC IT1180017-Bacino del Rio Miseria, the management of which is entrusted to the Ente di gestione delle Aree Protette Appennino Piemontese.

The Dedicated Local Plan for the Management of Anthropogenic Wolf-Dog Hybridization in the population of the Piedmont Apennine Corridor

The Dedicated Local Plan is the operational reference document, within the LIFE WolfAlps EU Project, to share the management guidelines for the genetic conservation of the wolf at the level of the local population of the Piedmont Apennine ecological corridor, in continuity with the Alpine population.

Therefore, with reference to the context of competence of the Ente di gestione delle Aree Protette Appennino Piemontese, the objectives, actions, procedures, materials and methods of the various phases of hybrid management intervention in the Alessandria Province territory are identified.

The actions envisaged by the “Dedicated Local Plan” in the territory of the Piedmont Apennine Protected Areas

The ‘Dedicated Local Plan’ envisages as a priority the neutralisation of the reproductive potential of the wolf-dog hybrids currently documented through photographic documentation (photo-trapping) and the genetic analyses carried out by the BIO-CGE Conservation Genetics Area Laboratory of ISPRA (Istituto Superiore per la Protezione e la Ricerca Ambientale) in the Province of Alessandria in the Acqui area.

The temporarily captured animals will be fitted with GPS collars in order to obtain important information on population dynamics through satellite tracking.
Under Action C5 of the Life WolfAlps EU project led by the management body of the Piedmont Apennine Protected Areas, the primary objective of capturing the reproductive female of the herd has been identified, in order to remove the reproductive component and limit the birth of new generations of hybrid animals.

Manipulation methods, catching, marking or detention

In order to implement the first experimental trapping, the management body of the Protected Areas of the Piedmont Apennines has signed a special agreement with the National Park of the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines. All trapping and handling of the trapped animals will be carried out exclusively by a team of technical experts composed of National Park staff. The trapping team will be composed of at least one veterinary doctor and two technicians with proven experience in previous trapping activities carried out in the territory of the National Park of the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines or in other national protected areas, to which a junior technician and a junior veterinary will be added. A secondary objective of Action C5 is in fact also that of training an operational team in the field in the Piedmont Region to capture or recover individuals of wolves or hybrids should the need to intervene arise (wounded, sick, over-confident animals etc.).

Dedicated Local Plan for the management of wolf-dog hybridisation transmitted - Life Wolfalps EU
Training of LWA EU personnel for the capture of hybrids within the framework of the collaboration with the Parco nazionale dell’Appennino tosco-emiliano. Photo: Archive APAP.

Each animal captured will be sedated by the veterinary doctor using a suitable mixture of drugs, according to the protocols used in the past by the capture staff of the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines National Park and the Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga National Park during the capture of wolves and hybrids in the LIFE M.I.R.CO-Lupo project and in management operations of wolf specimens found in difficulty.

The release of the sterilised animal will, in any case, take place at a time compatible with its full recovery, and close to the place where the capture previously took place.

The use of sterilisation and the release of animals in the wild near the capture site will allow rapid reinsertion in the pack to which they belong, limiting the risks associated with the permanent removal of animals and in particular the possibility of hybrid individuals moving to other areas. Numerous satellite telemetry experiments conducted in Italy, including the 21 individuals captured during the LIFE M.I.R.CO-wolf project, and abroad, in fact show a rapid re-association of captured individuals to their original packs, if they are permanently part of a pack.

Application submitted for authorisation of the first experimental catch

The “Dedicated Local Plan” for the management of anthropogenic wolf-dog hybridisation in the Piedmont Apennine corridor population was attached to the request for authorisation (granted) for the capture, reproductive neutralisation and subsequent release of wolf-dog hybrids, as an exception to the provisions of Articles 8, 9 and 11 of Presidential Decree 357/97, submitted by the Sustainable Development, Biodiversity and Natural Areas Sector of the Piedmont Region to the Ministry of Ecological Transition General Directorate for Natural Heritage and to ISPRA.

Hybridisation with dogs threatens wolf conservation

Hybridization between wolf and dog is now recognised as a real threat to wolf conservation and in particular of the Apennine subspecies (Canis lupus italicus) and is a source of alarm within the scientific community.

The affiliate relationship between wolf and dog can in fact lead to the compromise of the wolf’s genetic identity, risking affecting its ecology, morphology, behaviour, and adaptations, as well as its socio-cultural and conservation values.

Hybridization between wolves and dogs is a phenomenon that is mainly attributable to anthropogenic factors, following the often accidental and unintentional removal of ecological barriers between usually distinct populations.

One of the major causes of this phenomenon, as pointed out by the National Action Plan for Wolf Conservation, is the presence of stray or stray dogs in mountain and rural areas

The hybrid offspring born from the crossing of wolves and dogs are fertile and capable of interbreeding with wild individuals, which is why prompt and effective action is required, implemented after a careful assessment of the progress of the phenomenon.

At European level, the mitigation of dog-wolf hybridisation is promoted by precise EU legislation such as the Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC and the Bern Convention(Raccomandazione n. 173/2014). Member states that are signatories to the Bern Convention are explicitly recommended to implement monitoring and management of hybrids, including their removal from the wild to prevent their reproduction, as a serious threat to the conservation of wild species.

The European project LIFE WolfAlps EU

The five-year (2020-2024) LIFE WolfAlps EU project is developed through the implementation of several concrete wolf conservation actions aimed at improving the coexistence between the wolf and the people living and working in the Alps, building and implementing shared solutions together with stakeholders to ensure the long-term conservation of the wolf in the Alps.

In particular, Actions A6 and C5 of the LIFE WolfAlps EU Project provide for the control of hybridisation through the identification and removal of animals in authorised areas.

Il supporto tecnico-scientifico per l’attuazione di un piano di neutralizzazione riproduttiva dei soggetti ibridi è rappresentato dalle “Linee guida per la gestione degli ibridi lupo-cane nelle Regioni alpine” elaborate nell’ambito del Progetto LIFE WolfAlps EU – AZIONE A6 (AA.VV. 2021), facendo riferimento alle “Linee Guida per la gestione dell’ibridazione tra lupo e cane”   drawn up as part of the European Life IbriWolf Project and the Guidelines signed by the European Commission drafted for the management of large carnivore populations (Guidelines for Population Level Management Plans for Large Carnivores; Key actions for Large Carnivore populations in Europe)

The LIFE WolfAlps EU project involves a total of four Alpine countries: Italy, France, Austria and Slovenia. The Italian project territory also includes the Ligure-Piemontese Apennines, in its role as an important ecological corridor for the Alpine wolf population.

Download the Piano locale dedicato for the management of anthropogenic hubridisaton in the population fo the piedmont Apennine corridor.

For more information on the hybrids in Alessandria province qui.

To know more on hybridisation read this article #ibriPOST: cos’è l’ibridazione.