The Global Challenge of Living With Wolves

International Wolf - Fall 2001

This special issue explores the persistent, global challenge of living with wolves. It also examines the significance of a topic that threatens wolf restoration around the world: wolf depredations on livestock and the consequent poisoning and extirpation of wolves. This issue of International Wolf covers nearly every aspect concerning the topic. Our contributors have done an outstanding job exploring controversial issues regarding wolf depredations around the world: current methods of controlling wolves; alternative methods studied for minimizing wolf depredations; how a wolf kill is determined; the use of public lands; the need for wild, uninhabited places; and the role that zoning plays in wolf management.

We attempted to represent all viewpoints. Biologists in Europe, Asia, and the United States show what is happening in the field by offering specific examples of wolf-livestock interactions. The statistics presented by scientists are real, but we must bear in mind that their data focuses on individual, "problem" wolves and is not representative of the larger wolf population in each country: We also have a personal encounter, written by Montana sheep rancher John Baden, and a passionate debate between Tom Compton and George Wuerthner regarding why subsidizing grazing on public lands mayor may not be appropriate.

International Wolf looks a little different. Although the order has changed for this issue (the Wolves of the World section is up-front and our director's comments are in the back), we are still International Wolf, full of intelligent and thought provoking articles, stunning photographs and illustrations. As you have told us countless times, you enjoy reading about personal encounters with wolves and the Wolves of the World section. You will not be disappointed.

Nonetheless, huge questions surround the topic of wolf depredation. As the earth's population grows, will we leave room for wolves? If so, where? Although India, for example, will soon surpass China as the worlds most populated nation, what does it mean that America or Europe, with far smaller human populations, account for far more pollution, wasteful habits, and energy use? Will wolves and other wildlife continue to take the backseat to globalization and other human actions?

While such questions are daunting, one approach is to start with individuals. What can you do for wolves? Work to make small improvements in your local surroundings and promote sustainable living, but always bear in mind that we-nature and humans-are interdependent. This is an eco-systemic reality! If the extirpation of wolves continues unchecked, we will harm both nature and ourselves, and affect future generations. This idea of interdependency is so basic and obvious that it cannot be dismissed.

Joel T. Helfrich

Joel T. Helfrich, member of International Wolf Center's magazine committee, is a PhD student in American history at the University of Minnesota, where he teaches English Composition courses.

Funding for this special publication was provided by Mary Lee and Wallace Dayton and an anonymous donor represented by the United States Trust Company of New York.

Wolf-Livestock Conflicts in Romania

by Christoph Promberger and Annette Mertens

     The Carpathian Mountains in Romania are home to more than 3,000 wolves and some 5,500 brown bears. At the same time, more than five million sheep graze during summer on the alpine meadows within the carnivore range. Flocks are intensively protected by livestock guarding dogs and shepherds, however, there are neither subsidies nor compensation for livestock losses. Hence, it is the only place in Europe where carnivores and livestock share the same environment in high densities.
     The Carpathian Large Carnivore Project (CLCP, the largest research and conservation project in central and eastern Europe) has investigated large carnivore-livestock conflicts and their economic dimension in the southeastern Carpathians from 1998 to 2000.
     Losses varied considerably from camp to camp (Table 1). Our results show that it is the quality of dogs and shepherds and the way the sheep are kept that determines the amount of damage.
     There is no direct livestock depredation control in Romania. However, if complaints about losses get too high, the holder of the hunting rights for the area might apply to kill a higher number of wolves during the winter hunting season. Poaching of carnivores occurs to some degree by means of traps, snares, or poison.
     The CLCP has initiated the use of electric fences as an additional tool for overnight livestock protection. The first tests have been very encouraging, with no losses of livestock at all.
     Direct losses through depredation made up for 243 Euros per camp in 2000, whereas guarding costs reached 1,932 Euros per camp. Given an average salary of around 100 Euros (equivalent to $85 US dollars), this is a substantial amount of money: Since people are used to living with carnivores, they accept these costs as part of the business. An eco-tourism program developed by the CLCP attracts enough visitors to the area that there is an overall benefit to having large carnivores there.

Romania is the only place in Europe where carnivores and livestock
share the same environment in high densities.

Table 1: Characteristics per individual camp

Characteristics Range 1998 Range 1999 Range 2000 Average 1998 Average 1999 Average 2000
Sheep 50-1,200 22-1,200 100-1,000 530 407 468
Total losses 0-33 0-49 0-16 8.6 9.2 2.9
Losses to wolves 0-32 0-31 0-16 7.0 3.4 1.8
Losses to bears 0-11 0-26 0-5 1.6 5.8 1.1
Number of guarding dogs 2-14 4-17 3-13 7 9 8
Number of shepherds 2-9 3-15 2-12 5 6 5

The Carpathian Mountains in Romania are home to over 3000 wolves.

Christoph Promberger is a wildlife biologist who originates from Germany but has worked in Romania since 1993 on the Large Carnivore Project. He has been a consultant on many other projects over central and eastern Europe and is a core group member of the Large Carnivore Initiative for Europe. Annette Mertens is responsible for bear management at the CLCP. She is a biologist who studies wolves, wolf depredations, and ecotourism in Romania.

For more information visit:
International Wolf Center
Carpathian Large Carnivore Project