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A second meeting with local inhabitants about the wolf was organised in Gorenjska, Slovenia

11 December 2023
University of Ljubljana

In November, we organised a second meeting about the wolf in Gorenjska region in cooperation with the Triglav National Park (TNP) at the Info centre Triglavska roža Bled. Sašo Hrovat, Head of the Nature Conservation and Monitoring Service of the TNP, addressed the participants, inviting them to a tolerant and respectful discussion in order to find common solutions.

Dr Andrej Udovč and Dr Tomaž Skrbinšek from the Biotechnical Faculty, University of Ljubljana, prepared lectures based on the topics of the previous meeting,  on “Trends in agriculture in rural areas and potential causes of undesirable processes” and “Wolf abundance in Slovenia and wolf packs in the Alps”.

A second meeting with local inhabitants about the wolf was organised in Gorenjska, Slovenia - Life Wolfalps EU
Introductory speech by Sašo Hrovat, Head of the Nature Conservation and Monitoring Service in Triglav National Park. (Photo: Irena Kavčič)

Dr. Andrej Udovč said that the number of agricultural holdings has been decreasing since the 1970s; each year the number decreases by about 1000. Farms are becoming more concentrated and intensified, as the number of livestock is increasing despite the reduction in the number of farms. There are various factors behind these trends. Udovč finds the most important factor is technology, which is being developed especially for farming in the lowlands, making the cost of equipment on mountain farms higher. In addition, agricultural subsidies do not cover these financial differences. In addition to the greater intensity of production in favourable, lowland areas, factors influencing the abandonment of farming include the much better earning potential in other sectors, the age/demographic structure (there are no young people to take over the farms), weather volatility, damage caused by climate change, the administrative burden on farmers, and damage caused by game and protected species.

A second meeting with local inhabitants about the wolf was organised in Gorenjska, Slovenia - Life Wolfalps EU
The lecture of Dr. Andrej Udovč about the trends in agriculture. (Photo: Manca Velkavrh)

In his lecture, Dr. Tomaž Skrbinšek explained that wolves are highly territorial animals, actively marking and defending their territory against other wolves, and thus limiting their abundance (density) in a given area. When young wolves go in search of their territory (dispersal), they can travel long distances (the case of wolf Slavec and others). According to the latest monitoring data, the abundance of wolves in Slovenia is similar to the previous year (around 120). In 2018/2019, the first packs started to appear in the Alps. In Pokljuka, we have a pack since 2019, when the offspring of the Slavc wolf arrived there, and in Jelovica, a pack was formed in 2019, but no females have been detected since 2021. There is one other pack around Rateče, which is mostly present on the Italian side and contains hybrids – the problem of hybrids is solved by culling in Slovenia, but in Italy it is forbidden. Wolves also come to us from the eastern Italian Alps, and in this area we expect only an increase in abundance in the future, so the arrival of new individuals in the Slovenian part of the Alps is inevitable. During his lecture, he also pointed out that there is no record of a wolf attacking a human in Slovenia in the last 70 years. Individual attacks have been recorded in Europe, but only in cases where wolves have been habituated to humans (by feeding) or have been infected with the rabies virus. Therefore, a healthy wolf does not pose a threat to humans (including children).

A second meeting with local inhabitants about the wolf was organised in Gorenjska, Slovenia - Life Wolfalps EU
The lecture of Dr. Tomaž Skrbinšek, about the wolf abundance in Slovenia. (Photo: Irena Kavčič)

Although not only breeders were present at the meeting, they made their distress clear. They want more support from the state for the changes that the wolf is bringing to their lives. They emphasised that they would like to meet representatives of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Spatial Planning at the next meeting and underlined their helplessness in providing adequate protection for grazing animals in the Alpine area. Finding solutions is very farm-specific and individual attention is essential. Those who would like to check how to protect their grazing animals can contact the Slovenian Forest Service. The contact details are listed on the Varna paša (Safe Grazing) portal.