Key actions for Large Carnivore populations in Europe
Instytut Ochrony Przyrody Polskiej Akademii Nauk
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kontrakt nr 07.0307/2013/654446/SER/B3
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Istituto Ecologia Applicata, Rzym
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Large carnivores (bears, wolves, lynx and wolverines) are among the most challenging group of species to reintegrate back into the European landscape. After centuries of persecution they are now recovering across many areas of Europe due to favourable legislation, although some small populations remain critically endangered. Accordingly, a wide range of conflicts have reappeared and intensified, including the economically costly depredation on livestock and pets. Hunters perceive carnivores as competitors for shared prey species and in some events, predation can sustainably influence traditional game harvests. There are also a wide range of other social clashes where carnivores become symbols for conflicts associated with urban-rural and traditional-modern interfaces. In some exceptional cases, large carnivores (mainly bears) can be a risk for human safety, and fear of both bears and wolves is often expressed by rural residents. These conflicts can escalate to very high levels and can dominate political discourses in some countries. In many cases reintegrating large carnivores into the fabric of the European countryside requires making a number of adjustments to the practices of many sectors, including agriculture, forestry, hunting, transport, refuse treatment as well as dealing with the general concerns of many rural residents. There is a real need for the regional authorities to make the right adjustments, using the measures that have been proven to work. Many measures may be highly controversial and / or expensive, so it is crucial that their adoption can be justified and that as much experience can be transferred between areas to minimize the need to reinvent the wheel in different areas. From across Europe there is a wide range of experience from many different circumstances and situations. This experience ranges from knowledge of traditional animal husbandry and hunting practices, to the latest in hi-tech research and mitigation measures, and in large part stems from projects applied locally and co-funded by the European Commission under the LIFE programme. Europe is a very diverse continent in terms of geographical, environmental and socio-economic factors and there are no solutions that work in all contexts. It is therefore necessary to identify the range of potential solutions and then pick the combination of measures which work best in different local contexts. Building on this experience, it is imperative that the EC plans in a strategic way how to coexist with large carnivores in a crowded and increasingly urbanised continent. In 2012 the Directorate General for the Environment of the European Commission (DG ENV) launched an initiative for the conservation and sustainable management of large carnivore species, based on dialogue with, and involvement of, relevant stakeholders, with a view to ensuring their commitment to the long-term conservation of large carnivores in coexistence with humans in Europe1. The vision of the Directorate-General for the Environment of the European Commission (DG ENV) is to manage the recovery of LC populations while the concerns of stakeholder such as hunters, farmers and livestock and reindeer producers, local communities as well as environmentalists are fully considered in the process. The key goal of the renewed effort by the Commission is to engage all stakeholders in finding solutions that are beneficial for large carnivore conservation whilst ensuring coexistence with human populations. The work needs to be taken forward, with demonstrating actions and active and intense communication. For this reason, DG ENV contracted the Istituto di Ecologia Applicata to develop a set of supporting documents that will serve as the basis for improving the implementation of EU policy on large carnivore conservation under the Habitats Directive (43/92/EEC) through, amongst several tasks, the identification of key management actions. Members of the Large Carnivore Initiative for Europe ( contributed to this work.