The European Commission has put forth a proposal aiming to reduce the protection status for wolves within the EU, citing concerns over their rising numbers and their perceived threat,

particularly to livestock.

Presently, wolves enjoy a "strict protection" status in most of Europe under the Bern Convention and the EU's 1992 Habitats directive, allowing for limited exceptions. The Commission is proposing a shift from this strictly protected status to a protected status, citing new data on increasing wolf populations and their impacts.

While acknowledging the positive aspect of the wolf's return for biodiversity in Europe, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen expressed concern over the concentration of wolf packs in certain regions, specifically highlighting the dangers they pose to livestock.

Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski echoed these sentiments, acknowledging the challenges that the return of wolves has brought, particularly for pastoralism, within already complex socio-economic contexts.

The Commission noted conflicts arising between wolves and local farming and hunting communities as they return to areas previously devoid of their presence. Over the past two decades, the wolf population has notably surged across the EU.

The proposal follows comprehensive data analysis conducted last September, revealing a wolf population of over 20,000 in 23 EU countries. The report highlighted the growth of wolf packs and their expansion into larger territories, with specific mentions of their presence in territories like Wallonia and Flanders.

However, animal welfare NGO Eurogroup for Animals conducted an opinion poll revealing that 68% of respondents advocated maintaining the strict protection status for large carnivores, emphasizing their significance in conservation efforts.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) criticized the Commission's proposal, branding it as "outrageous." WWF representative Sabien Leemans accused von der Leyen of jeopardizing years of conservation efforts for political motives, attributing the wolf's situation to being a scapegoat for rural community challenges.

The decision on the proposal now rests with member states. Once adopted, the proposal will be presented by the EU to the Standing Committee of the Bern Convention. Meanwhile, the Commission urges member states to take immediate action within the existing legal framework and utilize EU funding to bolster preventive measures mitigating the threat to livestock. Photo by Mas3cf, Wikimedia commons.