Canids Specialist Group

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ResourcesWolf Working Group

Coordinators:

Asia - Y.V. Jhala

Europe - Luigi Boitani

North America - Mike Phillips

The Wolf working group (formally the Wolf specialist group) is an international organisation of experts on wolves. The current coordinators include Luigi Boitani for Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, Mike Philips for North America and Jhala Yava for Asia. With wolf conservation matters of internal significance, cooperation across the key geographic areas is paramount. The Wolf working group plays a key role in this allowing for the joint planning of conservation programs, exchange of experiences, research and publications and an assembly of knowledgeable personnel across the globe.

 

What are currently the main issues in grey wolf conservation?

In Europe

Wolves are increasing in number and range almost everywhere. With the exception of a small population in southern Spain (Sierra Morena: probably extinct) and the notable case of Finland, all other wolf populations show positive demographic and distribution trends.

The most difficult aspect of wolf management is managing the increasing conflicts with farmers and, to a limited extent, hunters. Conflicts are especially difficult to manage in areas of recent recolonization such as in France, Spain, Italy, and Germany.

The key issue is not biological but social as we struggle to position the wolf as a permanent, though extensively managed, component of the rural life. So far, wolf populations have been increasing but leaving this trend unmanaged risks to compromise the support for wolves and may cause negative backlashes.

In Asia

Wolf populations have declined or remained stable in most regions of S. Asia. Persecution by pastoralists remains the single most important threat in the Himalayan region as well as in peninsular India.

In the United States

Wolf populations are stable or modesty increasing in numbers and range.  In the Great Lakes Region (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan) and the Northern Rocky Mountains (Montana, Wyoming, Idaho) liberal management aims to hold population sizes and distribution at current levels.  In the Pacific Northwest (Oregon, Washington) wolf populations are increasing in size and distribution.  Management schemes are being considered to accommodate both without promoting chronic problems with people over concerns with livestock and wild ungulate populations.

Concern and confusion persists about the continued relevance of the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) to wolf management and conservation in these areas.  Despite the biological security of the gray wolf in the Great Lakes Region, a district court recently reinstated federal ESA protections for wolves there. A concerted recovery effort under the ESA remains in place for the Mexican wolf (Canis lupus baileyi).

The key issues in the U.S. are social:  developing efforts to promote co-existence between wolves and humans (livestock and wild ungulates) determining the proper role of the ESA for promoting conservation of the species. 

 

Activities of the Wolf WG in the last year:

Europe

The Wolf Group, through Large Carnivore Initiative for Europe (LCIE), is active on all aspects of wolf conservation in Europe (see Chapron et al 2014. Science). The last year has seen the signing of the important agreement at EU level of all major stakeholders to cooperate on the issue of large carnivore conservation. LCIE has worked in support of the European Commission to prepare background documentation leading to the agreement. Even though large carnivores include four species (wolf, bear, lynx and wolverine) it is clear that wolves are by far the most important species and the real reason for the initiative. The initiative is called Platform for Large Carnivore conservation: IUCN/SSC/LCIE is one of the partners and formally signed the agreement. The last year, also saw the launch of the new French Action Plan for wolves 2013-2017. Portugal and Italy are working on their national plan for wolves, expected to be ready by the end of 2015.

US

Members of the Wolf Group in the continental United States are active in many efforts to advance research and conservation in the Great Lakes States and the Northern Rocky Mountains.  Of central importance is the initiative to re-engage the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) to complete recovery planning for the imperilled Mexican wolf.  The original recovery plan was written in 1982 and was so insufficient that it failed to provide recovery criteria.  Since 1995 the Service has put forth three failed attempts to update the plan.  Wolf Group members are actively promoting a fourth effort that may prove successful. 

Asia

In Asia extensive wildlife surveys were conducted across 500,000km2 in peninsular India in 2014, wolf status in the region has remained stable since earlier surveys in 2010.

 

Issues the CSG should focus its efforts on in the near future to further the protection of grey wolves:

Europe

  • Ensure that wolves are managed at population level, not by administrative units (country, province, etc.). This is especially important in Europe where countries are small and most wolf populations are transboundary.
  • Work more on the social and economic aspects of the farmer-wolf interface. It is important to quantify the costs and benefits for all stakeholders, to put wolves in the correct perspective within the overall economy of the livestock industry (cost of conflicts, social stress, incentives and subsidies to maintain livestock, etc.
  • Insist on the concept of coexistence between wolves and humans as a possible approach that allows, through active management, to have wolves over large parts of Europe with minimal and tolerable conflicts. As the Habitat Directive does not allow to declare “no-wolf” zones, we must insist on the concept of coexistence as a workable compromise between wolves and humans.

United States

  • Ensure that wolves are considered at the population level to allow continued application of effective management schemes that must include some level of lethal control.
  • Redouble research efforts to clarify the social and economic aspects of wolf-livestock conflicts to ensure that the consequences of depredations are not excessively inflated. 
  • Advocate for development and implementation of a scientifically rigorous recovery plan for the Mexican wolf.
  • Advocate for adoption of a new common name for Canis lupus baileyi.  The current moniker, “Mexican wolf”, over simplifies the ecological history of the subspecies and in a way that complicates recovery.
  • Advance the concept of coexistence between wolves and humans as an achievable outcome that through active management would allow wolves to occupy much suitable but currently unoccupied habitat in the continental US.
  • Advance research to clarify the proper role of the Endangered Species Act for promoting wolf recovery and conservation.

Asia (and North Africa)

  • Scientific research on status, phylogeny, genetic structure, ecology and behaviour is required in Southern Asia, Persia and Northern Africa where this information is lacking and is required for conservation management of surviving wolf populations.
  • Due to high human densities and wolf-livestock conflict these rare and ancient wolf lineages are under severe threat. Governments need to be encouraged to enforce strict protection through law enforcement, and conservation measures through livestock compensation schemes, securing breeding habitats, and monitoring population status of wolves.