Asia - Yadvendradev 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?
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.
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 persist 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:
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.
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 imperiled 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.
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:
Asia (and North Africa)