Large Carnivores: Action Update

The European Commission (DG ENV – Nature Unit) initiated the EU Action on Large Carnivores.


This is a process of dialogue with and between the different stakeholders who have an interest in Large Carnivores. The overall objective is to identify practical approaches to help ensure the maintenance or achievement of the favourable conservation status of Europe’s large carnivores (bear, lynx, wolf and wolverine) and to secure their coexistence with humans by reducing conflicts. This resulted in an EU Workshop on 25 January to which approximately 80 representatives from livestock producers, reindeer herders, hunters, foresters, environmental NGOs, scientists and others were invited. The hunting community was well represented and included 15 experts from the FACE Technical Group on Large Carnivores (TGLC) who had met the day before (see below report). The workshop aimed to build mutual insight into stakeholders’ respective interests, and to find common ground. Stakeholders were asked to focus discussions on their visions for the rural landscapes the main obstacles to achieving these visions and potential solutions to these obstacles.
The coexistence between humans and large carnivores was generally seen as a future vision by most participants. Many of the conflicts such as the impacts of predation (e.g. on livestock, reindeer and beekeeping industries) and the general fear and anxiety for personal safety came up during the discussions. As large carnivores occur in a great diversity of situations (from ecological and socio-cultural perspectives), there was a call from several participants for more flexibility in the management of large carnivores. There was an ask for less interference by supranational bodies and for a decision-making process that takes place as close as possible to the level where large carnivores have a direct impact on people’s lives and livelihoods (in other words, the implementation of subsidiarity). The EU Commission initiative for such large carnivore dialogue process received very positive feedback from nearly every participant taking the floor in the plenary session, and the continuation of such dialogue was encouraged.
There is a genuine recognition for hunters from the EU Commission and others, as being one of the main stakeholders for large carnivore management. It is to the hunters’ advantage that they are well-organised into NGO structures and are well-connected at all relevant levels (from local up to European). This allows for a very comprehensive perspective on large carnivores. This was reflected through the involvement of the FACE TGLC experts in this process, who brought broad expertise to the Workshop.


With contributions from the TGLC experts, FACE coordinated an intervention on behalf of the hunting community that is associated with FACE and the CIC. This intervention was presented by FACE’s Senior Policy Advisor Dr. Yves Lecocq. Some of the main points included:

Large carnivore management

• Management of large carnivores should be based on scientific knowledge about their populations as well as fully taking into account the ‘human dimension’ aspect.
• The EU management objective should be the long-term viability of large carnivore populations and their acceptance (biological carrying capacity & social carrying capacity for large carnivores required).
• Management strategies and plans must be formulated at population level, with close cooperation between neighbouring countries sharing a population.
• There should be provisions for a transparent review process of the listing status of a species regionally, on the basis of scientific data.
• Decision-makers should give particular weight to the opinions of stakeholders that are directly influenced by, and have an influence on, large carnivores.

Some conflicts with regards to hunting

• Competition for huntable game.
• Killing of hunting dogs (economic and emotional value).
• Restrictions on hunting due to the mere presence of large carnivore (eg. to avoid alleged disturbance or within Natura 2000 sites).
• Illegal killing which is often falsely assigned to hunters, representing a serious potential threat to their public image.

The role of hunters in large carnivore management

• Hunters are and need to be part of the solution.
• Hunting is an acceptable, well regulated and necessary tool – amongst other tools – for the conservation and management of large carnivores. (eg. regulation of populations)
• Hunting can be a tool for increasing and maintaining natural wariness of large carnivores towards humans and their environment.
• Slightly slowing down the rate of recovery through hunter harvest can contribute to the long-term acceptance of large carnivores.
• Hunters contribute to maintaining and increasing the populations of prey animals (and their habitats).
• There can be a resource value of large carnivores as game species offering both recreational and socio-economic opportunities.
• Legalised and well-regulated hunting of large carnivores can reduce or eliminate illegal killing, since it gives local residents an opportunity to be actively involved in practical management.
• In the light of the general expansion and increase of large carnivore populations, legalised hunting – instead of culling them ‘under derogation’ in case of ‘problem animals’ – would also give a more positive connotation to these species.
• To ensure humane and safe hunting practices, programmes teaching hunters the special skills needed for hunting these species should be encouraged.
• Active involvement of the hunters’ community in management, research and monitoring of large carnivore game species is important.


According to the findings presented at the Workshop, large carnivores occur in a great diversity of ecological, conservation, social, cultural and political situations in Europe. The contract report currently recognises ten functional population units for wolf, lynx and bear. Wolverines are limited to two populations. Several very large and robust populations number in the thousands, and some  small and vulnerable populations have a dozen animals. 
Available data indicates that most large carnivore populations in Europe are stable or increasing. There are some exceptions such as the wolf in southern Spain and bears in central Austria. Some small populations, such as Apennine and Pyrenean bears are isolated. There is a diversity in the extent to which the populations are believed to be threatened. Broadly speaking, threats can be e.g. the fragmentation of habitats, disturbance, institutional weaknesses & lack of population level management plans and conflicts & poor tolerance.

Contact Gabor for more information on large carnivores.