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Online : the Strategy for the documentation and management of bold wolf in the Alpine region

21 April 2022

The Operational Strategy for documenting and managing cases of wolf confidants in Alpine regions, a document produced in the framework of action A7 of LIFE LWA EU, is online and downloadable from our website.

The document aims to provide management guidance for the identification and documentation of confident wolves. What is a confident wolf? It is a wolf that is highly habituated to humans, of whom it has no fear, and that is capable of approaching people on foot, repeatedly, at a distance of less than 30 m, as defined by the Large Carnivore Initiative for Europe (LCIE) the specialist group dedicated to large carnivores of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The LCIE produced in 2019 the guidelines for the management of bold wolves, the LWA EU document adapted it as an alpine-wide reference protocol.

With the expansion of the wolf population into more densely populated areas in the hills and plains, the number of sightings in inhabited areas is increasing. However, it should be pointed out that the fact that a wolf frequents inhabited areas does not in itself indicate that the animal is bold. Wolves can approach human settlements, sometimes even in daylight, especially during autumn and winter. Close encounters with a car or sporadic occurrences in particular environmental conditions (e.g. upwind) are natural behaviours for wolves.

Moreover, bold wolves are not necessarily dangerous to humans, but could potentially be so given their propensity to tolerate people even at very close distances.

Bold wolves are animals that have lost their natural mistrust of people and allow themselves to be approached. Why does a wolf become confident? Because it has undergone a process of habituation, i.e. it no longer associates human presence with danger, often because it finds positive reinforcement (a sort of “reward”) when it enters built-up areas, especially easily accessible food sources. Repeated positive conditioning can lead to a strong habituation to settlements and people, which is the main cause of the development of bold behaviour.

The strategy provides indications for the documentation of the case to be carried out by qualified personnel, including collection and verification of validated photo/video material, interviews with witnesses to frame the situation and frequent on-site inspections, combined with intensive monitoring with camera-traps. The on-the-spot visits, monitoring and collection of witnesses are important elements to assess the context in which the wolf approached people, to evaluate its repetitiveness and to identify the presence of attractants. On the basis of the information collected and the assessment of the case, the appropriate interventions as suggested by the LCIE protocol are indicated, which vary according to the gravity of the situation. In any case, any type of intervention activity foresees the main involvement of ISPRA, which will provide guidance on how to proceed on the documented case.

In order to prevent wolves (and other carnivores, from the smallest to the largest) from approaching houses and become habituated, it is very important to work on prevention, i.e. adopting behaviour that limits the presence of attractants inside inhabited centres, for example not leaving organic waste outside the house, or pet food. It is very important never to give food to a wolf that wanders near houses, or try to film it (as happened in some cases, for example in Otranto). Doing so reinforces the habituation towards people.

Online : the Strategy for the documentation and management of bold wolf in the Alpine region - Life Wolfalps EU

We will talk about bold wolves and their management at the next thematic conference of LWA EU, which will be held at Forte di Bard, Aosta Valley Region on the 29th April 2022. You can register to the Zoom webinar at this LINK. Simultaneous translation will be provided from Italian into English and vice versa.

Download the strategy HERE