Webinar: Coexistence with Large Carnivores

Large Carnivores: strategies for a better coexistence

While wildlife return in Europe is seen by many as a great conservation success, it brings some new challenges too. Most conflicts arise with farmers and livestock producers, reason why national governments in many European countries have implemented compensatory measures and prevention programmes. Yet, working side by side with farmers and provide direct support might not always be achievable by a governmental organisation and this is where other organisations such as Protected Areas or NGOs might have an important role to play.

In this webinar, organised by EUROPARC and the EU Platform on Coexistence between People and Large Carnivores, we looked at different management practices and prevention measures implemented in Estonia and Italy, both from a National government perspective and an NGO.

Over 150 participants from across the globe joined the webinar, and brought in very interesting examples and resources. Below you can download the case studies and read the brief resume of the webinar, with the most important links shared among participants.

Full recording of the Webinar


Download Case Study 1: Management of conflicts between large carnivores and farmers in Estonia

What are the main conflicts arising in Europe? What is the work of the EU Platform on Coexistence between People and Large Carnivores? Valeria Salvatori set the scene and introduced the first case study, on how the Estonian Environmental Board set up a national programme to reduce conflicts between farmers and livestock producers. Tõnu Talvi, Chief Specialist for Nature Conservation there, shared his experience in setting up prevention measures and a compensatory scheme for the damages caused by the brown bear, wolf, and lynx.

Download Case Study 2: Active collaboration with livestock owners to mitigate wolf impact in Central Italy

From a wide governmental perspective to the work of an NGO, the second case study coming from Italy showed how non-governmental organisations can work on conflict reduction. DifesAttiva is working in close collaboration with livestock producers and, through an EU funded project (Life MedWolf), has started a prevention programme with guarding dogs to mitigate wolf impact.

Many other successful examples are available in the EU platform, ranging from Awareness raising to provision of practical support, innovative financing and monitoring.


Prevention measures and Livestock Guarding dogs (LGD)

The European Parliament has recently published a study summarising best practices from member states to prevent conflicts. The EU Platform on Coexistence between People and Large carnivores collected evidence on how Rural Development programmes can be used to support damage prevention measures. Meanwhile, in this article, the Wilderness Society shows the arguments that have been using to hunt and cull large carnivores, as different legislative systems in a few countries allow those measures.

Many participants reiterated the positive outcomes of working with guarding dogs. In Romania and Bulgaria, the use of guarding dogs is widely spread with great results. For instance, a participant from France stated that guarding dogs are not enough to control attacks, especially over night and with foggy weather conditions. Indeed, many participants shared the idea that one solution is not enough and a combination of several measures is needed such as night enclosure and removable electric fences.

In the EU Commission manual “Livestock Guarding Dogs” you will find some interesting facts about the use of guarding dogs, and a selection of breeds from across the world. See also this scientific paper from Greece on the use of LGD, an example of herding in the middle of the swiss calanda wolf pack in a high alpine setting 1600-2100m only reachable by foot.

The breeds of guarding dogs depends on the region. In Italy, the most common breed is the maremmano/abruzzese sheepdog; in the Balkans the Carpathian shepherd, the Karakachan dog and Bulgarian shepherd dog; in Slovakia, they use Cuvac, Asiats and mixed breeds; in greece, the species preferred are the reek sheepdog, the white sheepdog and Mollosos of Ipirus; while in Hungary they mainly use the kuvasz.

There is, however, a lack of scientific evidence on the benefits of using livestock guarding dogs, as is depicted in this article.

How to evaluate the damage has been made by wolves and not by feral dogs?

There are, however, many livestock deaths that are wrongly attributed to wolves. In France, the number of sheep killed by wild dogs in France is multiple times higher than the wolf kills and in many countries no compensation is attributed to feral dogs attacks. Normally, the corpse is analysed by experts and veterinaries, and a DNA analysis is done if the kill is still fresh. The difference can also be seen in the bite pattern.

Fear vs Facts? The need to build trust

With the number of predators raising, fear and misunderstanding among communities are growing. While media play an important role influencing feelings towards large carnivores (and should be taken into account as an important stakeholder for all Large Carnivores projects), changing negative perceptions is a great challenge to all national governments, and all other organisations working with large carnivores.

The fear of wolf attacks to humans seems to have been inherited from ancient times as in fact numbers do not stand for. In Portugal, France and Germany no attacks by wolf have been reported recently. In the past, the wolf attacks on human reported were generally human-induced: injured wolves that were approached, wolves that were trapped by humans, or wolves that had rabies. Accoridng to a participant,

an attack where the wolf instinctively attacked a human has not been recorded and will most likely never be, as the wolf will always go for the most easy prey – which humans are definitely not.

To build up acceptance, there are successful examples of volunteering activities such as the Pasturaloup and FERUS in France, and the case presented by DifesAtiva in Italy. Citizen science was also mentioned as an important tool towards changing public attitudes, especially relevant in countries were LC need to be introduced, like the UK.

Moreover, to build up trust and ownership among locals, there are interesting examples on product branding – bringing an added value to the local produce – or ‘produces by predator friendly farm’. “Pays de l’ours – Adet” is an example of an association which promotes bear-friendly products but on this page, you will find many other examples of labeling schemes.


Other topics of discussion

Participants expressed interested in discussing other topics:

  • Analysis to the number and reasons of wolves deaths. (In Germany, a study revealed 248 dead wolves in Germany between 1991 and 2018.)
  • The problem with hybrids (see this life project taking place in Italy)
  • Effective communication actions to change public awareness
  • The return of the golden jackal

According to a participant “as numbers have now increased to over 100,000 individuals in Europe, it is only a matter of time before people start complaining, and demanding to ‘manage’ i.e. kill golden jackal. We are already running behind the facts for lynx, wolf, bear, wolverine, why don’t we anticipate for the golden jackal?”. In fact, the impacts of this species might be easier to mitigate: they depredate on livestock but guardian dogs are very effective on them, however, more research is needed. Meanwhile, in some countries like Slovakia, they are being shot by hunters but no measures have been implemented by the Government so far. There is also a clear interaction between wolf and jackal according to some participants, as wolf tend to eliminate the other species.

Opportunities and coming meetings

Pathways – Human Dimensions of Fisheries and Wildlife Conference

Goslar, Germany – Sept. 16-19, 2018 – Conference Theme: Resurrecting the Wild!?

Workshop at EUROPARC Conference (registrations will open soon)

Scotland, United Kingdom – Sept. 18-21 – Fear versus facts: effective communication, a mean to improve coexistence with large carnivores in protected areas.
This workshop will investigate the importance of effective communication to ensure constructive dialogue and acceptance for large carnivores with communities and stakeholders within PAs. Some of the aspects that will be considered, using concrete examples and some practical activities: Human perception vs. LC ethology; fear vs. facts; information and awareness raising vs. sensationalism and emotions.

Call for project partners

If you are ever interested in developing a European Union project (LIFE program) on the conservation of large carnivores, contact Enviropea at ebonneau @ enviropea.com