Communication news Urban wolves

I saw a wolf… in Slovenia!

15 September 2022
University of Ljubljana

As wolves spread across Slovenia, there are more chances for people to see them. What are the reasons behind it and how should we behave in areas where wolves are present?

Are there really more and more wolves in Slovenia?

The wolf was almost wiped out by the end of the 19th century, as bounties were paid for killing large carnivores. After gradual steps of protection, some done by the Hunting Association of Slovenia, in 1993 the state listed the wolf as a protected species throughout the year, making the killing of wolves an exception.* The numbers and distribution of wolves started to increase with this regulation, as even then they were not limited by the lack of suitable habitat.

The wolf population first recovered in the Dinaric region, but over time it spread to the pre-Alpine and Alpine regions, where three packs were detected for the first time in 2019 (single individuals had been detected there before). Wolves are capable of travelling more 10 km in search of food, and more than 1 000 km in search of territory (the case of the wolf Slavc**). Their dispersal is therefore natural – not only in Slovenia, but across Europe.

I saw a wolf... in Slovenia! - Life Wolfalps EU
The wolf has historically been mainly preserved in the central Dinaric part of Slovenia. Photo: Špela Habič.

We see more of them, so there must be a lot of them

In addition to increasing numbers and colonisation of new areas, many other factors influence the frequency of wolf encounters, such as the biology of the species and the characteristics of our area. At some point, young adults leave their primary pack in search of a territory and a mate (dispersion). As a wolf pack defends its territory against other wolves, young adult wolves (dispergers) try to avoid them when crossing territories. On the other hand, the landscape across Europe is highly populated; we do not have vast areas of uninhabited forest where we can limit the wolf’s presence and at the same time ensure its existence. Add to this agricultural land, motorways and local thoroughfares, and wolves have many factors to avoid on their space-seeking journey. So sooner or later some of them will enter the territory where people can see them.

With all these factors, it is not unusual to detect more sightings of wolves at local level. Although encounters with them are still very rare, they are also being reported in the media more often in the areas of new distribution.

I saw a wolf... in Slovenia! - Life Wolfalps EU
Foto: Francesca Mantero.

Wolf encounters

Wolf encounters are still rare. Since humans are neither competitors nor prey, they are not a threat to wolves. Keep your distance from the animal and observe it without approaching or feeding it. If the distance between the wolf and you is less than 30 m and you feel uncomfortable, we recommend speaking loudly, or even clapping your hands, to scare the animal away. Feeding wild animals is dangerous to their existence, as they tend to return to the vicinity of humans again later.

If you are in an area where wolves are present, we recommend that you keep your dog on a leash and keep it behind the fence or in your home at night.

To know more about the correct behaviour to adopt when encountering a wolf, read this article.


*More about historical distribution of the wolf in Slovenia:

**The dispersion journey of wolf Slavc on (1) the project website and (2) final report about wolf monitoring in years  2010-13: