Monthly Archives: September 2014

Wolf and bear movements and behaviour offer clues to challenges of future carnivore conservation

If you reintroduce a large carnivore into a location adjacent to human population centres then human-wildlife conflict is likely. It also raises some important questison – what is ‘adjacent’ and what is ‘human wildlife conflict’.

The first bear to appear in Germany in over 170 years (a migrant who had left Italy, crossed Austria into Bavaria, was deemed to be behaving in a threatening manner by (purportedly) raiding bee-hives, killing 30 sheep, devouring pet rabbits and a guinea pig and raiding wastebins, as well as ‘rearing on his hind legs’ when approached too closely by some over-curious hikers. The latter incident doomed him to the decision by local authorities that he should be shot by a hunter – his body is now displayed as a taxidermy in a Munch museum.

Only this year a female bear with cubs was disturbed by a local cable-car worker as he searched for mushrooms and unsuprisingly she attacked him although left him with injuries without appearing to attempt to kill him. The outcome was an attempt by the authorities to capture her and remove her from the area (where she had been living peacefully in the wild for 13 years). The animal died during the capture.

A wolf’s Journey: In zig-zagging his way from Slovenia to Italy, Slavc is estimated to have travelled some 2000 km. Photograph: Hubert Potočnik, University of Ljubljana

A wolf’s Journey: In zig-zagging his way from Slovenia to Italy, Slavc is estimated to have travelled some 2000 km. Photograph: Hubert Potočnik, University of Ljubljana

Experiences with reintroduced wolves has highlighted how far-ranging these animals become. Dispersion from release sites over thousands of kilometers is now being observed, although in these cases without apparent conflict issues despite proxmity to human habitation and infrastructure. Even the Netherlands hosted its first wolf in 150 years during 2013, just 30 miles from the densley populated North East coast, sparking alarmist headlines (although the animal that was found, was dead by a roadside).

 So, proximity to humans becomes inevitable. Natural behaviour (investigating bee-hives, attacking vulnerable livestock, defending cubs or warding off potential threats) becomes unacceptable aggression. What are the acceptable limits? What does this mean for lions?


BBC (2008) Notorious bear ends up in museum. BBC News

Daily Mail (2013)  The wolf’s at the door: first killer beast turns up in Holland for 150 years

Davies E. (2014) Wild Bear Danzia dies after attempt to capture her faisl in Italy. The Guardian World News

Nicholls, H. (2014) Incredible journey: one wolf’s migration across Europe. The Guardian Science

Whitlock, C. (2006) Feb up Germany kills its only wild bear. Washington Post.

The realities of life with large carnivores

For those of us with little experience of living alongside wild populations of large carnivrores it can be tempting to assume that such beasts would keep well clear of human habitation for fear of reprisal.

However animals are not programmed to recognise boundaries between the ‘wild’ and human populated parts of the landscape; there may be no reason to recognise an agricultural area or a road as a ‘no go’ as opposed to forest, scrub or other more suitable habitat. Additionally many of the large carnivores have extensive home ranges or are habituated to wander or migrate, wolves being a well documented example.

The other side of things is equally true; in many environemtns humans expect free access and the opportunities to exploit resources, whether on a personal, family, social or industrial level.

The image below highlights the potential dangers of this mutually exclusive, but spatially overlapping expectation. In the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve there are still a few villages, so people’s day to day lives can unexpectedly cross the lives of tigers. A bad outcome for either species following any interaction is unlikely to be a good outcome for conservation.

A tiger walks on the main road in Mohurli Range in the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) completely oblivious to the humans and vice versa!



Conservation India (2011) Tiger Road, Tadoba.

Fabbri, E., C. Miquel, V. Lucchini, A. Santini, R. Caniglia et al., (2007). From the Apennines to the Alps: colonization genetics of the naturally expanding Italian wolf (Canis lupus) population. Mol. Ecol. 16 1661–1671.