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European Journal of Wildlife Research

, Volume 56, Issue 2, pp 169–179 | Cite as

Historical dynamics of a declining wolf population: persecution vs. prey reduction

  • José María Fernández
  • Nerea Ruiz de Azua
Original Paper

Abstract

Using records from archives detailing bounties for wolves killed in northern Spain during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, we investigated demographic and spatial distribution parameters of the population to determine whether direct persecution or prey availability was responsible for the observed population decline. Captures of adult, subadult, and young individuals, including those of litters, showed a downward trend. Progressive decreases in age ratio and litter size, and the increase in the proportion of males, were compatible with a population under food stress, driven by the extinction of wild ungulates, the sharp reduction in livestock numbers, and the lack of alternative prey. The immigration and dispersal process does not seem to have functioned under such conditions. In the study area, where strychnine was not used until the end of the nineteenth century, the broadly accepted idea of human persecution having an exclusive or primary role in wolf decline does not necessarily apply.

Keywords

Canis lupus Wolf Persecution Prey Spain Mortality 

Notes

Acknowledgments

The authors thank Francisco J. Purroy, Carles Vilà, Bogumila Jedrzejewska, Jorge Echegaray, Arturo Menor, Eugenio Murguía, Miguel Ángel Campos, Mario Sáenz de Buruaga, Teresa Andrés, Brian Webster, Nick Gardner, and the officials at Archivo del Territorio Histórico de Álava, Archivo Histórico Foral de Vizcaya, and Archivo General de Guipúzcoa for their kind assistance.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Instituto Alavés de la NaturalezaVitoriaSpain

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