EU Commission proposes lowering wolf protection status

New measures needed to protect livestock
calendar icon 20 December 2023
clock icon 2 minute read

Wolves could lose their strict protection from hunting and capture if a European Commission proposal on Wednesday to downgrade their status due to their growing population and threat as a predator is adopted, reported Reuters.

The proposal, condemned by environmental groups, comes after the European Commission in September called for data on the impact from rising numbers of wolves across the continent.

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, whose own pony was killed by a wolf in 2022, urged member states at the time to "to take action where necessary".

The "strictly protected" status under the Bern Convention on wildlife and natural habitats conservation protects wolves from being deliberately hunted or captured unless they pose a serious threat to livestock or health and safety. Were the status to be lowered to "protected", they would lose this protection.

An in-depth EU analysis, also published on Wednesday, puts the number of wolves in the bloc at about 20,300 slightly higher than last year's 19,400 estimate, and significantly higher than the 11,193 estimated in 2012.

It shows that wolves have been detected across all EU member states except Ireland, Cyprus and Malta this year and that there are breeding packs in 23 countries.

The rising number of wolves has led to conflicts with local farming and hunting communities on measures to prevent attacks on livestock.

The European Environmental Bureau, a network of over 180 organisations across 40 countries, condemned the proposal and deemed it "against Europe's commitment to biodiversity protection and restoration".

It said conflicts with farmers stemmed from the fact that the predators have come back to parts of Europe where the knowledge and practices of living with them had been lost.

Changing the wolf's protection status is subject to the agreement of the member states and other Bern Convention parties, and is a precondition for any similar change to its status at the EU level.

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