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Indirect effects of changes in environmental and agricultural policies on the diet of wolves

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Policies have the potential to affect human–wildlife coexistence. However, despite consequences being evident beforehand or emerging soon after their implementation, potential conflicts between policies and biodiversity conservation are not always easy to predict. Wolves feeding on anthropogenic food sources (AFS) usually fall into conflict with humans, mainly due to predation on livestock. But the availability of AFS can be influenced by different policies leading to diet shifts, which could trigger new conflicts or exacerbate existing ones. Here, we show a long-term shift in the diet of wolves in northwestern Iberia over the last three decades and discuss its potential connection to changes in sanitary, environmental, and socioeconomic policies. Wolves persisted for a long time due to the activity of humans with AFS accounting for >94 % of their diet. Our results suggest a connection between a diet shift in wolves and changes in policies, from a broad diet including more feedlot (pigs, chickens) and medium-sized (goats and dogs) species, mainly in the form of carrion, to a more narrow diet based primarily on large domestic ungulates (cattle and horses). We discuss the potential implications of the observed shift in the diet of wolves on human–wolf conflicts. We also call attention on the pressing need to integrate policies into biodiversity conservation to anticipate future conservation and management dilemmas.

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We are indebted to the rangers and the staff of the wildlife recovery centers of the Regional Government of Galicia and Luis Fidalgo and his team of the University of Santiago de Compostela for their help. We thank Luigi Boitani and José Guitián who critically reviewed an earlier version of this manuscript and two anonymous referees for their constructive comments. JVLB was supported by a Juan de la Cierva research contract (JCI-2012-13066) from the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness. This is scientific paper no. 7 from the Iberian Wolf Research Team (IWRT).

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Correspondence to José V. López-Bao.

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Llaneza, L., López-Bao, J.V. Indirect effects of changes in environmental and agricultural policies on the diet of wolves. Eur J Wildl Res 61, 895–902 (2015).

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