The number of wolves in Alpine areas has increased dramatically, by one-third since last year, according to the Swiss Wolf Group organisation.
The Swiss Wolf Group’s latest study indicates that 98 wolf packs were active in Alpine regions between May 2017 and April of this year, 23 more packs than the previous year. Four of the packs are roaming in Switzerland – two in canton Valais and one each in Graubünden and Ticino – amounting to between 30 and 40 animals.
The increase is more dramatic than in previous years, when the wolf population had grown by between 10 and 15% annually, according to the Swiss Wolf Group. The organisation said this change indicates new “exponential growth” among the Alpine wolf population.
Wolves were nearly extinct in Europe before the first ones began reappearing in the Alps and in Switzerland in the mid-1990s.
The 30-40 wolves currently living in Switzerland are protected under the Council of Europe’s Bern Convention, a binding international legal agreement. Wolves may only be hunted if they kill more than 25 farm animals within a month.
The wolves’ return is not without controversy, with farmers who fear for their livestock arguing for looser hunting restrictions and calls for a relaxation of the animals’ protected status.
A government proposal to change wolves’ status from “strongly protected” to “protected” is due to be decided on later this month.