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A Review of Wolf Predation in Southern Europe: Does the Wolf Prefer Wild Prey to Livestock?

Alberto Meriggi and Sandro Lovari
Journal of Applied Ecology
Vol. 33, No. 6 (Dec., 1996), pp. 1561-1571
DOI: 10.2307/2404794
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2404794
Page Count: 11
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A Review of Wolf Predation in Southern Europe: Does the Wolf Prefer Wild Prey to Livestock?
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Abstract

1. The recent recovery of the wolf in southern Europe has not yet removed the risk of local extinction. Wolf populations are fragmented and often comprise fewer than 500 individuals. In North America, northern and eastern Europe, wolves feed mainly on wild herbivores. In southern Europe, this canid has apparently adapted to feed also on fruit, rubbish, livestock, small and medium-size mammals. 2. The main conservation problem lies with predation on domestic ungulates, which leads to extensive killing of wolves. The reintroduction of wild large herbivores has been advocated as a means of reducing attacks on livestock, but predation on the latter may remain high if domestic ungulates are locally abundant. 3. Our synthesis of 15 studies, published in the last 15 years, on food habits of the wolf in southern Europe, has shown that ungulates have been the main diet component overall. A significant inverse correlation was found between the occurrence (%) of wild and domestic ungulates in the diet. The presence of relatively few wild ungulate species was necessary to reduce predation on livestock. 4. Selection of wild and domestic ungulate prey was influenced mainly by their local abundance, but also by their accessibility. Feeding dependence on rubbish was local and rare. In Italy, the consumption of rubbish/fruit and that of ungulates was significantly negatively correlated. Diet breadth increased as the presence of large prey in the diet decreased. 5. The simultaneous reintroduction of several wild ungulate species is likely to reduce predation on livestock and may prove to be one of the most effective conservation measures.

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