Lethal management may hinder population recovery in Iberian wolves
In previous centuries, wolves were extirpated across much of their range worldwide, but they started to recover in Europe since the end of last century. A general pattern of this recovery is the expansion of the range occupied by local populations. The Iberian wolf population, shared by Portugal and Spain, reached its lowest extent and abundance around the middle of the twentieth century. Unlike other populations in Europe, its range recovery and pack counts seem to have stalled since the first Spanish country-wide census of 1986–1988. The population shows low effective population size and remains isolated from other European wolves. This is unexpected given the protection offered by European legislation, i.e., the Habitats Directive, and the apparent availability of habitat outside its present range. We compiled records of wolves killed legally in Spain, reviewed the legislative and management framework for the Iberian wolf population, and discussed potential implications of a policy of lethal management for the ecology, genetics and conservation status of wolves in the Iberian Peninsula. Wolves are strictly protected in Portugal. Meanwhile, they are subject to culling and hunting in Spain. No wolf was legally removed by culling or hunting during the study period in Portugal, whereas 623 wolves were legally killed in Spain between 2008 and 2013. Twenty-nine of those wolves were killed in areas under strict protection according to European legislation. Despite the transboundary nature of this wolf population, we are not aware of coordinated conservation plans. Management is further fragmented at the sub-national level in Spain, both due to the authority of Spanish autonomous regions over their wildlife, and because wolves were listed in multiple annexes of the Habitats Directive. Fragmentation of management was apparent in the uneven adherence to the obligations of the Habitats Directive among Spanish regions. A similar situation is found for other large predator populations in Europe. We suggest that lethal management as carried out in Spain is a hindrance to transit and settlement of wolves, both within and beyond the Iberian wolf population. Reducing the pressure of lethal management appears a feasible policy change to improve the conservation status of the population and foster transboundary connectivity.
KeywordsExtirpation Favorable conservation status Grey wolf Habitats directive Lethal management Range recovery Transboundary populations
This study was partially supported by the Spanish Agencia Estatal de Investigación from the Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness (Project CGL2017-83045-R AEI/FEDER UE, co-financed with FEDER). Thanks to those managers from the Spanish regional administrations that answered our information requests. Fernando Jubete, Rubén Portas and Juan Ángel de la Torre helped us compiling and interpreting lethal management data.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Research involving human and animal rights
This study did not involve any experimentation or handling of human or animal subjects. The consent to submit the manuscript has been received explicitly from all co-authors. We all have consent from the authorities at our respective organizations to conduct this research, and to submit it for publication.
- Apollonio M, Andersen R, Putman R (2010) European ungulates and their management in the twenty-first century. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
- Council of Europe (1979) Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention). https://www.coe.int/en/web/bern-convention. Accessed 11 Nov 2018
- Deinet S, Ieronymidou C, McRae L et al (2013) Wildlife comeback in Europe: The recovery of selected mammal and bird species. Final report to Rewilding Europe. ZSL, BirdLife International and the European Bird Census Council, LondonGoogle Scholar
- European Environment Agency (EEA) (2018) Natura 2000 data—the European network of protected sites. https://www.eea.europa.eu/data-and-maps/data/natura-9. Accessed 11 Nov 2018
- European Union (1992) Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:01992L0043-20070101. Accessed 11 Nov 2018
- Fuller T, Mech L, Cochrane J (2003) Wolf population dynamics. In: Mech L, Boitani L (eds) Wolves: behavior, ecology, and conservation. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp 131–160Google Scholar
- Kaczensky P, Chapron G, Von Arx M, et al (2012) Status, management and distribution of large carnivores–bear, lynx, wolf & wolverine–in Europe. Report by LCIE for the European CommissionGoogle Scholar
- Leonard JA (2014) Ecology drives evolution in grey wolves. Evol Ecol Res 16:461–473Google Scholar
- Linnell J, Salvatori V, Boitani L (2008) Guidelines for population level management plans for large carnivores in Europe. A Large Carnivore Initiative for Europe report prepared for the European Commission (contract 070501/2005/424162/MAR/B2)Google Scholar
- MAGRAMA (2016) Censo 2012-2014 de lobo ibérico (Canis lupus, Linnaeus, 1758) en España. Ministerio de Agricultura, Alimentación y Medio Ambiente, Madrid. https://www.miteco.gob.es/en/biodiversidad/temas/inventarios-nacionales/censo_lobo_espana_2012_14pdf_tcm38-197304.pdf. Accessed 11 Nov 2018
- MARM (2009) Población y Sociedad Rural. Análisis y Prospectiva. Serie AgrInfo 12. Subdirección General de Análisis, Prospectiva y Coordinación, Subsecretaría. Ministerio de Medio Ambiente y Medio Rural y Marino. NIPO: 770-09-195-9Google Scholar
- Mech LD, Boitani L, (IUCN SSC Wolf Specialist Group) (2010) Canis lupus. IUCN Red List Threat Species. https://doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2010-4.RLTS.T3746A10049204.en Google Scholar
- Ministère de la Transition Écologique et Solidaire (2018) Plan national d’actions 2018–2023 sur le loup et les activités d’élevage. https://www.ecologique-solidaire.gouv.fr/plan-national-dactions-2018-2023-sur-loup-et-activites-delevage. Accessed 11 Nov 2018
- Padial JM, Contreras FJ, Pérez J et al (2000) Análisis de la situación y problemática del lobo (Canis lupus signatus) en Sierra Morena oriental (sur de España). Galemys 12:37–44Google Scholar
- Palomo LJ, Gisbert J, Blanco J (2007) Atlas y libro Rojo de los mamiferos terrestres de España. Organismo Autónomo Parques Nacionales, Madrid. https://www.miteco.gob.es/es/biodiversidad/temas/inventarios-nacionales/inventario-especies-terrestres/inventario-nacional-de-biodiversidad/ieet_mamif_atlas.aspx. Accessed 11 Nov 2018
- Petrucci-Fonseca F (1990) O lobo (Canis lupus signatus Cabrera, 1907) em Portugal. Problemática da sua conservação. PhD Thesis, Universidade de LisboaGoogle Scholar
- Rico M, Torrente JP (2000) Caza y rarificación del lobo en España: investigación histórica y conclusiones biológicas. Galemys 12:163–179. http://www.secem.es/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/G-12-NE-14-Rico-163-179.pdf. Accessed 11 Nov 2018
- Schäfer M (2012) The National Wolf Strategy in Austria: An Evaluation of the Wolf Management-Plan and its Formulation Process using the Multiple-Streams Framework. Master’s Thesis, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology ZurichGoogle Scholar
- Svensson L, Wabakken P, Maartmann E et al (2015) Inventering av varg vintern 2014–2015. Rovdata och Viltskadecenter, SLUGoogle Scholar
- Trouwborst A (2014b) Living with success—and with wolves: addressing the legal issues raised by the unexpected homecoming of a controversial carnivore. Eur Energy Environ Law Rev 23:89–101Google Scholar
- Woodroffe R (2000) Predators and people: using human densities to interpret declines of large carnivores. Anim Conserv 3:165–173. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-1795.2000.tb00241.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar