13th September 2023

Mammal Conservation Europe is concerned about the Press Release made by the European Commission, ‘Wolves in Europe: Commission urges local authorities to make full use of existing derogations and collects data for conservation status review’, 4th September 2023.

Following centuries of persecution, wolf populations are currently recovering in many EU countries. This is largely a consequence of social, economic and land-use factors, including reforestation and the progressive abandonment of agricultural land, but it has also been supported by legislation to protect the species. Conflicts between wildlife conservation and the interests of hunters and farmers have arisen in some areas. This is to be anticipated given that many activities and management practices have evolved over recent decades, in the absence of large carnivores in the landscape. As noted in the Commission’s Press Release, such conflicts occur ‘especially where measures to prevent attacks on livestock are not widely implemented’.

Mammal Conservation Europe is surprised to see the European Commission calling for evidence on ‘challenges related to the return of wolves’ with a consultation period lasting only 18 days. This short timeframe is at odds with the Commission’s Better Regulation Guidelines which require that all stakeholders should have a reasonable period in which to make informed and effective contributions. In addition, there is a significant risk that an open call for additional information could result in biases in the evidence used for decision-making: it is vital that any information beyond that already supplied by Member States as part of their obligations under the Habitats Directive must be collected and verified in a scientifically rigorous way.

The wording of the Press Release, which ‘urges local authorities to make full use of existing derogations’, without any reference to the Mitigation Hierarchy and the Habitats Directive’s clear guidance that derogations should be used only as a last resort when other measures have failed, is also very disappointing.

Finally, we consider that the comments referring to the potential risk to human safety are inflammatory, and contrary to the scientific evidence which shows that the risks to humans is extremely low.

We have written to Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, and Nicola Notaro, Head of the Commission’s Directorate General for Environment to express our reservations and to ask for further information on how current shortcomings will be addressed.