EU initiative seeks to address conflicts arising from coexistence of people and large carnivores

Author: John Linnell/Tuesday, June 10, 2014/Categories: News

Brussels, 10 June 2014. IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, welcomes today’s launch of the EU Platform on Coexistence between People and Large Carnivores. These species, such as wolves and bears, have made a remarkable recovery across the EU, but coexistence with man can be problematic. The Platform was set up by the European Commission to facilitate constructive dialogue among key stakeholders including farmers, conservationists, landowners and hunters, and it aims at finding commonly agreed solutions to conflicts arising from people living and working in close proximity to these large animals.

As one of the Platform’s members, we look forward to playing our part in the Commission’s initiative to foster a positive dialogue,” said Luc Bas, Director of the IUCN EU Representative Office. “IUCN’s own network of members and experts represents a broad spectrum of interests in this field, from scientific institutions to environmental NGOs, from hunters to governments, and thus finding common ground is in our DNA.”

The Platform will cover four species of large carnivore present in the European Union, including the brown bear, the wolf, the wolverine and the Eurasian lynx. Historically, large carnivores had seen their numbers and distribution decline dramatically, mainly as a consequence of human activity. However, in the last few decades, these animals have made a dramatic recovery across Europe and numbers have now reached around 40,000, with most of the populations stable or increasing. This is mainly due to favourable national and international legislation such as the EU Habitats Directive, adopted some 20 years ago, which protects the European large carnivore species to varying degrees and provides a basis for harmonisation of national legislation. This Directive has resulted in large carnivores’ return to many areas from which they had been absent for decades and to reinforce their presence where they already occurred.  As many as 21 EU countries are now home to at least one of these species.

Although this is considered a great conservation success, such increases in species numbers have also caused some conflicts with local people and stakeholders who share the same landscape in some areas of Europe, notably farmers and hunters. Because of their predatory habits large carnivores need very large areas (individuals ranging over areas as large as 100-2,000 km²) and their conservation needs to be planned on very wide spatial scales which span many intra- and international administrative and jurisdictional borders. (1)

“The recovery of large carnivores in Europe can be considered a great conservation success, but it also causes controversy which needs to be addressed,” said Luigi Boitani, Chairman of the Large Carnivore Initiative for Europe (LCIE), a Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission. “We have already seen many positive examples of coexistence with these animals, but further dialogue is needed. After all, there is no conservation without conversation.”

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(1)  The presence of large carnivores in areas where humans live, work and recreate is often associated with a variety of conflicts, such as depredation on livestock (and semi-domestic reindeer in Scandinavia), interaction with hunters, as well as social and cultural conflicts related to broader tensions between rural and urban areas.

Measures to address these different conflicts vary greatly, ranging from traditional shepherding methods to modern electronic fencing. However, due to the prolonged absence of large carnivores, readopting the former practices can be a major challenge for social, cultural, economic and logistical reasons. While experience from many sites shows that it is possible to adapt livestock husbandry to the presence of large carnivores, this requires willingness to change, as well as technical assistance and economic support.

Due to the diversity of European situations and landscapes there are no management approaches that work in all contexts. Reintegrating large carnivores into the fabric of the European countryside therefore requires making a number of adjustments to practices of many sectors.

Equally, experience has shown that social and cultural conflicts can be successfully addressed by promoting dialogue between the various stakeholders involved in the issue.


About the EU Platform on Coexistence between People and Large Carnivores

On 10 June 2014, the European Commission, under the auspices of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, will host the launching ceremony and first working session of the EU platform on Coexistence between People and Large Carnivores. Members of the Platform will share and exchange experience aimed at finding commonly agreed solutions to conflicts arising from coexistence of people with large carnivores.

A number of European stakeholder organizations will join the Platform, including the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation (CIC), European Farmers and European Agri-cooperatives (COPA-COGECA), European Landowners’ Organization (ELO), EUROPARC Federation, the European Federation of Associations for Hunting and Conservation (FACE), Joint representatives of Finnish and Swedish reindeer herders, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), and IUCN. They will sign an agreement on the key principles of engagement in its activities.

For more information, see Large carnivores in the EU - the Commission's activity on large carnivores and the conference programme.


Angelika Pullen, IUCN European Union Representative Office, +32 473 947 966,

John Linnell, LCIE, +47 90012533,

Photos for download

About IUCN

IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature, helps the world find pragmatic solutions to our most pressing environment and development challenges. IUCN is the world’s oldest and largest global environmental organization, with more than 1,200 government and NGO members and almost 11,000 volunteer experts in some 160 countries. IUCN’s work is supported by over 1,000 staff in 45 offices and hundreds of partners in public, NGO and private sectors around the world.

IUCN’s European region covers the European continent, Russia and Central Asia, and includes the European Union overseas entities. Representing one third of the global membership, this is IUCN’s largest programmatic region. The Mediterranean biodiversity hotspot is an important area of work for IUCN. A dedicated office, the Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation, defines and implements action to conserve biodiversity in the Mediterranean countries.

Visit the IUCN Europe website for more information.


About LCIE

Large Carnivore Initiative for Europe is a Specialist Group within the Species Survival Commission (SSC) of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). LCIE consists of a group of experts working on conservation of large carnivores in Europe.

The members bring experience from the fields of ecological and social science research, wildlife management, hands-on conservation, and from international conservation organisations.

In 2013, the LCIE published Manifesto for Large Carnivore Conservation in Europe, and provided a series of reports to the European Commission, including reviews of the status and management of large carnivores in Europe, as well as a report on conflicts and conflict resolution methods. In January 2013, LCIE members have assisted the European Commission in organizing a stakeholder workshop in Brussels on these issues.

See for more information.


Status of Large Carnivores in Europe

Brown bear
In Europe, brown bears occur in 22 countries, and the estimated total number of brown bears in Europe seems to be in the range of 17’000 individuals. In the EU, bear populations are strictly protected under the EU Habitats Directive, but some countries use derogation to allow a limited cull of bears. The smallest bear populations are still critically endangered.

In Europe, breeding populations of wolves occur in all countries except in the Benelux countries, Denmark, Hungary and the island states, although even Denmark has recently had several individual wolves establishing within its borders. The estimated total number of wolves in Europe seems to be larger than 10,000 individuals. The legal status of wolves in the European Union under the Habitats Directive varies from country to country, and some countries have differentiated management within their borders. As a result some populations are exposed to regulated hunting while others are strictly protected. Numerous conflicts occur with wolves and livestock across the whole species range.

Eurasian lynx
Eurasian lynx are found in 23 countries, in northern and eastern Europe (Scandinavian and Baltic states) and along forested mountain ranges in southeastern and central Europe. Half of the populations are autochthonous, while the other half stem from reintroductions in the 1970s and 1980s. There have also been some more recent re-introductions, for example in Germany, Austria and Poland. The total number of lynx in Europe is 9000-10’000 individuals. In the EU, (with the exception of Estonia where lynx are managed as a game species), lynx populations are strictly protected under the EU Habitats Directive), but some countries currently use derogations to allow a limited cull of lynx by hunters.

Wolverines are found in four European counties in Europe: Sweden, Norway, Finland and Russia. The Scandinavian population consists of about 1,100 individuals. In the EU, wolverines are strictly protected under pan-European legislation (the Habitats Directive). The main conflicts occur due to wolverine depredation on semi-domestic reindeer, as well as domestic sheep (in Norway). The main threats to European wolverines are over-harvest and poaching, although there are concerns about potential impacts of climate change.

For more information, see European Commission: Status, management and distribution of large carnivores – bear, lynx, wolf & wolverine – in Europe


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