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© Chris Martin Bahr / WWF
Grey Wolf
Decades after widespread and efficient hunting wiped them from the Alps, wolves are returning.
Unlike the bear and the lynx, the wolf (Canis lupus) is returning naturally to its former Alpine territory, without the help of restocking or reintroduction efforts. The natural return of the wolf is a sign that the Alps are once again ecologically ready to support wolf populations. A favourable protection status for the wolf in the Alps also played a major role in aiding its return.
But human-wolf conflict continues to be a major barrier to the full return of the wolf in the Alps. Low acceptance of the wolf’s return is especially strong in Alpine regions were the wolf has been long absent. In some regions, the legal protection status of the species under the Bern Convention is being attacked, as demonstrated by the recent appeal by Switzerland to downgrade the wolf’s status as a strictly protected species.


What we do 

Reducing human-wolf conflicts and managing those that arise will be important steps if humans and wolves are to coexist peacefully. Through education, tourism, and effective management, WWF is working to enhance the acceptance of wolves in the Alps.

Distribution in the Alps

Distribution of the grey wolf (Canis lupus) in the European Alps. 
© European Alpine Programme

Livestock Protection

Unprotected livestock are vulnerable to attacks by wild predators like the wolf. The damage caused results in a decrease in wolf acceptance in the affected regions. Promoting livestock protection strategies is thus a major focus for wolf conservation.

Guard dogs are being trained to protect livestock from fox, raven and wolves. There is also some evidence that they have scared bears away too. Ticino, Switzerland. © Mark Schulman / WWF

LIVESTOCK PROTECTION projects: A major conflict issue that limits acceptance of large carnivores in the Alps is the presumed threat of bears, wolves, and lynx to the livestock industry. WWF is promoting the use of livestock protection strategies to enhance the acceptance of large carnivores in communities across the Alps. Reintroducing the use of specially trained guard dogs and protective fences are key strategies that WWF is testing. The successful implementation of these strategies will help to reduce conflict between humans and the returning large carnivores.

Canis lupus Grey wolf Captive, photo was taken in March. © Chris Martin Bahr / WWF

The LIFE COEX project: The LIFE COEX project aims to enhance large carnivore acceptance in regions across Southern Europe, including important Alpine wolf territory, through a participatory approach. In the French Alps, for instance, the hard work of volunteers have helped livestock raisers to construct huts and protective fences, as well as helping with day-to-day shepherding activities. WWF coordinates the conservation activities for the project in France.

Infographics for the Alpine ecoregion.
© Infographics for the Alpine ecoregion.  © WWF European Alpine Programme

Wolves cause less than 0.5% of the total livestock damage in Europe.