A wolf on the ring road: LIFE WOLFALPS EU and the challenge of habitat fragmentation
Few days ago, the news of a wolf hit on the north ring road of Trento bounced on Facebook pages and profiles. Although unexpected, the episode is perfectly framed in the dynamic of dispersion of the species. The young ones leave the pack, travel long distances (even more than 1,000 km) in search of a partner and new territories to colonize. This propensity contributes significantly to the speed of recolonization by the wolf in the Alps and Trentino. In the coming months the MUSE will update the number of wolves in the Province of Trento, thanks to the new national monitoring, coordinated by ISPRA at the national level and by LIFE WOLFALPS EU at the alpine level.
During the dispersion wolves cross different type of landscapes that are more or less man-made, differently permeable, and with more or less dangerous ecological barriers.
The Adige Valley, where this last road accident took place, is certainly among the most significant ecological barriers in the Alpine region. The valley is densely populated and is crossed for its entire length by a motorway, a railway and various communication routes. Under the LIFE+ T.E.N. (2012-2017), coordinated by the Province of Trento and MUSE as a partner, the remaining ecological connection were identified (Action A3) which, although limitedly, allow fauna to cross the valley. Due to their relevance on an Alpine scale, the emerged results and indications were brought to the attention of the EUSALP.
Likewise, the Action C6 of the LWA EU project intends to work on the opposite side of the Alps on a second barrier that has long been characterized by its impact on wolf populations: the Val di Susa. Here, in the last 20 years, over 50 wolves have been hit (more than half of those found in the only province of Turin), revealing an important sink for wolf. Coordinated by the Metropolitan City of Turin in collaboration with the partner Parchi Alpi Cozie, the action will analyse in detail the permeability of the section of the valley between Susa and Claviere, implementing interventions aimed at mitigating the impacts on wolves especially by the railway. An ambitious project, supported by bodies of national importance such as ANAS, SITAF (Italian Society of the Frejus Motorway Tunnel) and Ferrovie dello Stato, which, at the same time aims to reach the safety of motorists and restoration of ecological connectivity. The preliminary surveys of the pilot action in Val di Susa are scheduled for the end of 2020, while the experimental interventions to combat habitat fragmentation will be implemented during the project, with the first results published starting from 2022. Naturally we will keep you updated on the development of this pioneering study on the pages of the website!
P.S. The hit female wolf will join the other two Trentino specimens of the MUSE theriological collection. The taxidermized animal will be used for exhibition and educational purposes, while the skeleton and biological samples will be kept for future studies on large carnivores.