Monitoring the Alpine wolf population news

France : Summer monitoring of the wolf population – 2021

19 April 2022

Methodological reminder

The objective of summer monitoring of the wolf (April to October) is to detect potential new packs but also to better understand the territorial organisation of known social groups. To do this, summer monitoring of wolves is essentially based on the protocol of induced howling. It consists of stimulating the howling of wolves in order to detect the presence of young and thus attest to the reproduction of the species in an area. The use of camera traps is also a useful addition to the summer monitoring system.

Since 2013, howling operations are no longer systematic, but only concern territories selected on the basis of the previous winter’s assessment and information collected by the network in the months preceding the operations. These are primarily sectors of presence “to be confirmed”, of which there were 23 at the end of the 2020-2021 winter. In addition, the sites surveyed also include the new “non-pack” Permanent Presence Areas (PPA) with at least two individuals and the sectors where the installation of interstitial packs is suspected.

At the same time, the collection of information is continuing throughout the species’ area of presence as part of the heritage monitoring carried out by the network (routine collection of all signs of presence throughout the territory by the correspondents). This report includes in annex the list of all the signs collected between 01/04/2021 and 31/10/2021.

Many more summer monitoring operations this year

This year, 53 surveys were organised in the field between August and September 2021. The operations were all organised in the Alps and Provence.

In total, 24 operations confirmed reproduction in these new sectors. Slightly more than half of the operations were negative, that means no cubs were found.

On the other hand, any sign collected opportunistically (visual observation, photography, remains) allowing the presence of cubs on a massif to be attested is also considered in order to document the reproduction of the species during the reference period (1st April to 31st October). 36 additional cases of reproduction were thus highlighted during this season, on known or unknown packs.

These results demonstrate the complementarity of induced howling operations and opportunistic monitoring in the monitoring scheme.

The identification of reproduction in a new sector makes it possible to attest, subject to comparison of the results with neighbouring packs, to the presence of a new breeding pack, thereby qualifying the area as Permanent Presence Area (PPA). In total, 9 out of 24 Presence Areas that were “to be confirmed” at the end of last winter are now qualified as packs after this monitoring season.

Nearly half of the new packs identified during the summer were suspected at the end of the winter, which confirms the network’s expertise and the responsiveness of the monitoring system in detecting new wolf groups.

The Wolf-Lynx network, a dynamic tool for knowledge

France : Summer monitoring of the wolf population - 2021 - Life Wolfalps EU
Evolution of the number of signs collected during the Summer

The number of Permanent Presence Areas is increasing on the national territory. Once again this year, there has been a significant increase in the number of signs collected by the network members during the summer.

Nearly 2,400 items of information were assessed throughout the wolf’s area of presence in six months. There was a high level of activity on the colonisation front, with many non-recorded or unverifiable signs. Evidence collected outside the Alps represents nearly 25% of the data.

Demographic expansion continues with 145 ZPPs including 128 packs (the last winter assessment reported 125 PPAs, including 106 packs + 2 packs with no signs)

Between April and October 2021, 20 new PPAs were validated through the detection of breeding.

The new pack called “Frontiera” located in the extreme east of the Alpes Maritimes is most certainly a cross-border pack with the Italian side (Val Pesio?). A second pack has been identified outside the Alpine and Provencal massifs, the Risoux in the Jura massif, thanks to an active collaboration with our Swiss colleagues.

This monitoring allows the existence of 128 packs to be attested. The density of the social groups can be seen in certain mountain ranges, particularly in Isère and in the Alpes de Haute Provence and the Alpes Maritimes. The extension of the area of presence continues to the south of the historical massifs (Alpes Maritimes and Var), to the west (Drôme) and to the north (Haute Savoie). Following a howling operation organised in the Vercors in the Drôme, the historical Vercors West PPA was replaced by two groups: Pionnier and Gampaloux. To date, no breeding has been identified in the Massif Central or west of the Rhône valley, although the number of contacts with individuals settled or dispersing is increasing in these areas.

France : Summer monitoring of the wolf population - 2021 - Life Wolfalps EU
Schematic map of wolf presence areas in France – situation at the end of Summer 2021

Network news on new areas to watch

The results of this summer monitoring have identified new areas of presence to be confirmed due to newly collected signs or suspicions of new groups. This year we note the emergence of two sectors to be monitored outside the historical massifs; the first in Occitania, south of the Tarn and the second east of the Ardèche.

Some regional news during the summer monitoring period

In the Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur region, the densification of certain historical sectors continues. Some new groups have been identified as a result of induced howling, organised in targeted sectors where the existence of interstitial groups was suspected. Sometimes these howling operations give uninterpretable results: for example when only adults are detected or when only one group responds while two groups are suspected. For this reason, some areas remain on ‘watch’ status (Brandis). Other new groups have been detected thanks to camera traps which have allowed the presence of youngsters to be observed or during herd protection operations. In the Hautes Alpes, we were unable to formally differentiate the group present in the Clarescombes sector from the adjacent PPAs despite the organisation of a large-scale howling operation. Pending simultaneous information, particularly from the Lure and the Chabre PPAs, we are therefore classifying this area as a sector to be monitored. In the calanques, which were previously a sector to be monitored, two individuals were spotted thanks to the camera traps set by the National Park. The same scenario was observed in Ceüse, where two individuals were detected. The howling operations in this sector did not allow us to identify any reproduction.

In the Auvergne Rhône Alpes region, the colonisation of the species is continuing on the periphery of the core population. The Drôme region is experiencing the strongest evolution with the densification of packs in the Vercors massif and in the south of the department. The various howling operations have been successful, only the La Lance ZPP has acquired the status of a breeding pack thanks to camera traps.

Territorial progression of the species continues

In conclusion, this summer report shows 145 Permanent Presence Areas, of which 128 are packs and 17 are not packs, with a significant continuation of the territorial development of the species. There were 60 cases of reproduction during the monitoring period. In addition, 23 sectors to be monitored were identified at the end of the summer, and the next winter monitoring will focus on documenting the situation in these areas.

The gradual deployment of the lynx network throughout the country will optimise the spatial distribution of correspondents in order to detect and monitor the presence of the species. The training effort made in recent months will improve the network’s coverage and responsiveness. The ongoing development of a database accessible to all correspondents will improve the circulation of information and facilitate access to results in a context of network expansion.

You can find these data on the website, the OFB’s official tool for disseminating knowledge about the wolf in France: