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The Wolf in the Italian Alps

Context, Natural Return of Wolf and Evolution of the Population up to 2020

A continuous persecution led to the extinction of the wolf in the Italian Alps at the beginning of the 20th century. In the Western Alps, the natural recovery of the species began in the 1990s: In 1996-97 the first cross-border packs between Italy and France were documented. Although illegal killing is still a present and locally problematic phenomenon, the trend of the Alpine wolf population has been positive in the last twenty years. In 2017-2018 the wolf population in the Italian Alps reached a total of 51 stable wolf packs/pairs for a minimum of 293 wolves, most of them located in the Western Alps. The central-eastern part of the population is in strong expansion, although largely originating from the first pair formed in Lessinia in 2012. The Italian alpine area is currently important as a connection site between the Italian Apennine wolf population and the wolf population of the Dinaric Alps. The natural return of the species takes place primarily in rural and mountain areas, where the zootechnical activity is more or less intense and impacted by the predator.

Main Issues and Threats

The interactions between the presence of the wolf and livestock breeding have always been the major source of conflict among wolves and human activities: it is of fundamental importance to invest locally in systems to prevent attacks on livestock and to support the work of farmers to promote the coexistence between wolf and human activities. Recently also the hilly, riverside and more anthropized areas are subject to the natural return of the wolf, which generates new problems related to fear, which can be solved with adequate information.

Species Protection and Management

The wolf is a strictly protected species in Italy through the Bern Convention (1979), and the EU Habitats Directive (1992) on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora, which have been implemented in by specific National Laws. Italy is working towards a new national management plan for the species since 2015, but not in place yet. Only from 2020 the Ministry of Environment of Italy mandated ISPRA to conduct the first national monitoring system of the species. Apart from monitoring the status of the population, single Regions and National Parks also finance measures to protect livestock and compensate breeders for losses due to wolf predation.

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