December 14, 2016
Madrid’s regional government is to double its compensation fund for farmers who lose animals to wolves after a steep increase in fatal attacks in the last year.
Wolves, hunted to the brink of extinction over the past seven decades, have begun to reappear in the region in recent years.
Their return has been most keenly noticed by farmers, whose sheep, goats, cows and horses are increasingly falling prey to the 20 or so wolves thought to roam the autonomous community of Madrid. The region, which covers 3,000 sq miles at the centre of Spain, contains mountains, valleys, hills, forests, pastures and farmland, as well as the capital city.
An Iberian wolf in Chapineria, south-west of Madrid. There are thought to be 20 or so wolves roaming the community of Madrid. Photograph: Paul Hanna/Reuters
Wolf attacks have risen from under 20 in 2012 and 2013 to 91 in 2015 and 209 in 2016. There were also four attacks in 2016 attributed to vultures.
The regional government has announced it will raise its compensation budget from €60,000 (£51,000) this year to €120,000 in 2017. Claims for the past 12 months already total almost €90,000. Compensation payments are up to €500 per sheep or goat and €1,000 per cow or horse.
According to the government’s environment department, there are estimated to be three wolf packs in the region, whose numbers are growing year by year.
“The community of Madrid has to reconcile two things: it needs to protect wolves – which cannot be hunted or captured in the region – but it also needs to protect farmers’ interests,” said a government spokesman.
“We’re paying farmers for the loss or injury of their animals but we’re also talking to farmers and ecologists about things like electric fences, using mastiffs to protect livestock and restoring pens to make animals less vulnerable to attack.”
Another problem, the spokesman said, was that wolves in surrounding areas did not respect manmade boundaries and frequently staged sorties into the Madrid region.
“The number of attacks has risen considerably because there are wolves in neighbouring communities such as Castilla y León and Castilla-La Mancha and they don’t understand borders – they come in, hunt and leave,” he said.
Also among the options is using GPS technology to track the animals and get a better idea of their habits and movements.
There are thought to be more than 2,000 wolves in Spain, the largest population in western Europe.
This article was first published by The Guardian on 28 Nov 2016.
If we are asked of non-governmental associations or groups that defend animals there are surely some that are better known than others. But also think of those that work on more specific areas or covering less known animal species. The effort made by each of the people in these groups, whether large or small, is the same: to devote their free time and all their energy to defend something they believe in. Some have larger resources and others less, they do what they can to make a better world, and therefore all have the same right to be heard, and that defending is just as important whether the organisation is large or small. Given this, animalesextincion.es want to give them a voice, and as a reference we have chosen SOS Lobo Cantabria. It consists of a group of people doing an important work in Spain, defending one of the most endangered species in the Iberian Peninsula, the Iberian wolf. This canine is threatened largely by archaic beliefs and ignorance of their behavior and SOS Wolf Cantabria are collecting signatures and continuous information about changing the dark future that awaited the wolf. There is an article written by José Ramón López that knows the real situation of the Iberian wolf and the work of SOS Lobo. Here you will find detailed and useful information to keep abreast of the species. Link to article.
The Iberian Wolf now has a stable population northwest of the Iberian peninsula, where it is listed as “threatened” while in the Sierra Morena district the Iberian wolf is listed as “extinct”. IUCN has the sub species listed as “vulnerable”. The wolf is a gregarious and a strong social behavior mammal, linked to a group (flock) dominated by an alpha pair and descendants of different generations. The wolves hunt in small groups or individually. It is a territorial animal with a wide range. They can travel between 100 and 1000 km2 depending on the area and food. In the Iberian Peninsula, the optimal habitat for the wolf is one with dense vegetation cover, and low human population density, dense populations of deer and wild boar with domestic cattle to consume carrion mode. Big game does not represent a particularly important resource and livestock is not handled in extensive regime. In terms of biology and characteristics of the species, we will not extend as there is an extensive bibliography and has already been discussed here (Iberian wolf ).
The wolf has coexisted with man from the beginning, being a threat and competition, especially since man began to domesticate and breed animals for consumption. It has always been in direct competition for being a great carnivore. His distant relative, the dog (Canis lupus familiaris), adapted to the submission and dominance of men, today being his favorite animal companion. But the wolf has maintained its freedom, adapting its habits to the growing human presence. It was present in all ecosystems of the Iberian Peninsula, to the nineteenth century date when the population began to diminish. They were then considered a pest and vermin so farmers were organized to assist in eradication efforts. Between 1954 and 1962, 1 470 animals were officially hunted and killed. Cantabria, former province of Santander, was one of the provinces with seal species where 205 wolves were captured in the same period. In the 70s, the wolf was on the verge of disappearance, persecuted and almost extinct. During this period it was estimated that there were between 400 and 500 individuals remaining throughout Spain. In Europe the wolf was eradicated completely in France and Italy. The “lobero” or wolf hunter was respected for his contribution to the community with each kill, something that still happens in rural communities.
The Iberian Wolf, along with the Brown bear (Ursus arctos arctos) is one of the top carnivores at the top of the food chain in the Cantabrian ecosystems and as predators ensure a healthy wildlife. In Cantabria the wolf’s natural prey are roe deer, deer, boars, weasels, rodents, shrews, hares, reptiles and birds. They also eat carrion and even fruit. The wolves arre doing a great job in controlling overpopulation of species that otherwise would have no predator natural selection. Man has conquered their territory, with most of its range intended for cattle and other activities. Cantabria is an autonomous region that historically has specialized in livestock, due to the topography and climate. The scheme has been extended in many of its municipalities, leveraging the creation of pastures in mountain area which until the late twentieth century, was the livelihood for many mountain areas. The wolf when attacking livestock affected the livelihood itself and therefore, he was regarded as harmful and damaging. Any harm to human livelistock was addressed by eradicating the threat, in this case the wolves. This w’sas the origin of the declared war against the wolf. Cantabria is therefore become a mosaic of grassland valleys, hillsides for livestock and some indigenous forests of great importance, especially in the west central region. The valleys correspond to populated areas, meadows and farms, while mountain areas are used as summer pastures. The range of the wolf in the peninsula makes Cantabria wolf populations share with neighboring communities and provinces. Wolves move from one territory to another from Asturias, León, Palencia and Burgos. To a lesser extent with Euskadi since in this region the wolf is practically eradicated. In recent years are being tracked wolves in Las Encartaciones district of borderline Vizcaya Cantabria. In terms of distribution in a 1988 report, it was estimated that the wolf affected 27 of the 102 municipalities of Cantabria occupying area of 2,130 km2. It also included the Commonwealth Campoo-Cabuérniga which is an area of 7,000 ha. of livestock use, jointly and without population. In the study of the report were calculated between 24 and 30 wolves in Cantabria. Another study the same year estimated between 15 and 21 wolves. Due to the territorial nature of the wolf, the range they have and the tight control population suffers, it is unlikely that there are more than 25-30 individuals in the region. Based on previous studies and the range we handle from SOS Lobo we estimate around 30 individuals in the region, failing to meet official and independent data.
PROBLEMS OF THE WOLF
To understand the conflict of wolves in Cantabria one must understand the territorial organization of the mountains of the region. Most of the woods and natural areas are public woodland. For centuries rural populations have exercised the right to use these mountains, currently regulated and controlled by the Forestry Act Cantabria, Law 10/2006 of 28 April . Other mountains correspond to municipal land, of neighborhood councils or less private measure, all subject to the said Act. Although the population density of areas with wolf is low, the density of cattle is still very high . According to the census of 2000, the heads are spread being the most abundant type of beef cattle (349,526), followed by sheep (136,519), goats (30,754) and horses (21,462) mainly. Cattle with greater presence in the region is cattle in different races and specializations. The livestock management continues to maintain a nomadic regime between valleys and mountain passes. In the area of Cantabria, handling, and races, may vary. While the eastern coastal Cantabria and have specialized mainly in milk production with the introduction of Friesian cattle, western specializes in breeding for there is also a strong presence of sheep in Campo and some valleys and an increase in almost all the region of equines in extensive regime. As cattle in the east, livestock is controlled to a greater extent, having major housing. However, in the western area of specialization meat, livestock is long periods of time in the bush released without supervision or extensive regime. This did not occur just over 50 years ago. In those years there were one or several pastors who stayed in huts and cottages enabled to guard animals in the pastures where cattle graze during the summer months. Today there have been changes in grazing management, as it exploits the forest tracks and ATVs to upload and monitor livestock. In very few areas of the region there is anyone who cares. In the Liébana, there is still some shepherd that keeps the tradition of grazing. On the other hand, livestock, more often the main economic activity to complement the family economy. The greatest damage produced in smaller livestock grazing may be in most cases public forest or on private farms. The importance of livestock in the region and the large area of public forest make Cantabria have a counseling especially for Livestock and tertiary activities (Ministry of Livestock, Fisheries and Rural Development). The Directorate General of Forestry, dependent thereon, is responsible for managing public forests and ensure the conservation of nature, among many other functions. Currently this Ministry is responsible for managing natural areas and wildlife, thereby causing significant conflicts of interest between conservation, hunting management and livestock. That is, the conservation of wildlife is managed as in the case of the Iberian wolf, but the ranching and hunting is also managed. Due to pressure from municipalities with wolf and inheritance eradication as a management the Ministry of Livestock, Fisheries and Rural Development has always controlled the number of wolves, based on criteria such as the livestock kills and action lawsuits from farmers through their councils’
SOS LOBO Cantabria
The wolf and its management has always been a controversial issue, especially in a region like Cantabria. In the spring of 2013, as in previous years by that time, a series of major wolf raids were performed by National Park Picos de Europa (Municipalities Cantabria), in the Saja Besaya Natural Park and spaces of Red Natura 2000. In some collaboration with hunters and forestry crews, using arts as fireworks and combing the woods. He also performed raids in the breeding period of the wolves and many other species knowing the significant environmental impact that can be generated. In the vacuum of these raids, SOS Lobo Cantabria was founded. Then there is the ignorance of most of the population of the region (who is not related to rural, livestock or hunting) and Spain. We are a group of citizens who promote wolf conservation and the environment. We denounce the situation of the wolf in Spain and in Cantabria and promote that the administration works for the conservation and sustainable management of these beautiful creatures.
The first and foremost action that SOS Lobo disclosed is the petition on the platform change.org: To discontinue pursue and kill the Iberian wolf in Cantabria. SOS Lobo Cantabria is formed by people committed to the conservation of nature and the environment. Far from radical positions, we aim to raise awareness and encourage the competent authorities to rectify the way we manage nature and specifically to this species which has been so punished and yet so valued outside the region. The group starts to work to publicize the problem there is with the wolf, the collection of signatures grows and the press echoes. We denounce and we present serious situations like the death of nine wolves in the same group in two hunts of wild boar in the Liébana. Unfortunately, this practice in hunting and ferrous population controls have been doing for years, while many people think happily that Wolves are protected, the reality is that they are indeed hunted and far too often. After a year of campaigning and collecting over 84,000 signatures, we are making the same strides we pronounced in June 2013. The Ministry of Livestock, Fisheries and Rural Development, Government of Cantabria has announced that it would conduct a census of the wolf in the region and that was to prohibit the quota of a wolf in each whipped boar hunting season. View News
Despite the shocking holder ‘Cantabria prohibit hunting lobos’ and after examining the content of the proposed new rules, boar-hunters can still kill wolves for an extra smaller fee. On the other hand it was announced that the Ministry has requested a census of the wolf in the region, which we include in the letter accompanying our request. We do not know exactly how many wolves are in the region independently and reliably. What looked like a twist of wolf management in Cantabria seems to have been a publicity stunt if a real interest in changing anything.
According to the administration livestock attacks can often be contributed to wild dogs. Although farmers blame the wolf in most of the complaints, it is the Ministry that, after opening the file, make appropriate inquiries and if the damage was caused by this animal, the owners receive compensation due. Instead farmers complain that aid is arriving late and procedures are lengthy. Furthermore there have already been detected many cases of fraud as recently reported in Asturias. Increased wild dogs and anger against the wolf in rural environments perceives a density much higher than the actual wolves, reaching as many as 30 wolves in a forest administration. It is overestimated the number of wolves occupying areas without actual knowledge of number. If you consider the thousands of head of cattle in the mountains of Cantabria go unchecked, you could that the number of attacks is not as important. On the other hand in case of an actual attack and upon certification by the competent technicians owners are indeed compensated. One can give the most varied circumstances, such as a carcass eaten by the wolf as carrion to intend to collect compensation. One of the arguments of the farmers concerned is the slow arrival of aid and amount. Of course we think it is essential that such compensation is fair and swift, and we think it should punish whoever seeks to benefit from these measures deceiving the administration that runs it. The ancestral battle with the wolf in rural areas being one of oral tradition has transmitted ideas like the wolf is an animal murderer who kills for pleasure or that it should be eradicated. The wolf or any wild animal take no pleasure in hunting, driven only by instinct and need. If it is known that the wolf kills and save carrion to feed later. The wolf behavior is altered by having its natural foodsource unsuited to escape his attacks. However, in areas where there are many cattle, but lots of wildlife such as deer, roe deer and other natural prey of wolf attacks are less frequent. Another commonly argument used by advocates of extinction is that the wolf can ruin families of farmers or shepherds. This is an argument that was true many years ago, but today very few people live only ranching. This argument today is meaningless because of the compensation, aid for rural development and livestock, in many cases, is a complement to income. Many of the areas of distribution of wolf form part of the Natura 2000 network. The governments receive and manage EU funds, including funds for livestock activities. In return, the management of these natural areas must be compatible with the conservation of species and habitats covered by EU rules. Furthermore, in order to maintain and set population in rural and mountain areas, European institutions help to promote traditional uses. The Iberian wolf is a jewel of our wildlife and it is expected that administrations ensure preservation of our heritage.
Among the threats that the species in Cantabria highlight:
Alteration of habitat – Forest fires are an example. In Cantabria there is very frequent use of illegal burning in the mountains. Some infrastructure and specific actions also affect the foraging area and hunting.
Poaching – We do not have statistics, but wolf poachers in the region use the head as a trophy. Similarly, there is poaching on their natural prey.
Overhunting – Regulated hunting raids promoted by the administration cause heavy casualties on wolf populations. Packs are segmented, motherless babies, leaderless groups. Situations that can greatly affect the behavior of the species and favor hybridization.
Hybridization – The domestic dog and his kind, whether recognized as cases of hybridization. The hunting of the species without control is favoring that hybridization occurs. They kill wolves during the breeding leaving cubs and yearlings without reference group nor its kind, which is easier to establish connection with feral dogs.
Lazos – It was a very common practice of poaching used historically by alimañeros and whose culture is still present in the region.
Use of poisons – The great blackmail of those in favor of extinguishing species like the wolf. They know the dangers of this method and its effects on almost all wildlife populations.
AUTHOR José Ramón López Lobo SOS Cantabria .
Anyone wishing to add their name to their petition can do so at: