Large carnivore conservation is a topic that involves a diversity of stakeholders that includes hunters, foresters, livestock producers, reindeer herders, landowners, rural people, conservation organisations and the wider public. All these groups are influenced by and perceive large carnivores in different ways, and in some cases these differences can be the foundation of conflicts. The Commission has been conducting a range of activities to promote a constructive dialogue between stakeholders with a hope of reducing the level of conflict around large carnivores.
A first step has been to come up with a detailed understanding of the conflicts between stakeholders over large carnivores.
This has been followed by a number of workshops involving both small groups and large groups of stakeholders. The largest was held in early 2013 and involved almost 100 stakeholders from all across Europe.
A second stakeholder workshop on EU action on large carnivores organized by DG Environment took place on 5 December 2013. Some 90 representatives from the hunters’ and herders’ communities, agricultural associations, environmental organizations, local and national governments and scientists from all over Europe gathered in Brussels in order to discuss the possibility of a platform for dialogues on large carnivores, to share experiences among different countries. This proposal was welcomed by the interest groups. The first drafts of sets of key conservation actions for each population of large carnivore species were also discussed.
The Directorate General for the Environment of the European Commission has worked for two years on setting up a structure to support and facilitate constructive dialogue among the key stakeholders at European level. 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.
In 2013-2014, the European Commission financed a set of four pilot actions that were intended to address areas of conflict between large carnivores and people and to promote interactions between stakeholders.
Definition and management of problem bears
Bears can sometimes develop problematic behavior that requires reaction from management agencies. However, there has been considerable variation in how different authorities and different experts define problematic behavior and how they respond. This pilot action brought together experts from a range of European countries to try and standardize definitions and recommendations for appropriate responses.
Using traditional knowledge to reduce conflicts between wolves and cattle in Iberia
Free-ranging cattle are vulnerable to wolf depredation in many parts of the Iberian Peninsula. This project involved researchers and cattle producers from Spain and Portugal working together to examine how traditional husbandry practices can be restored or adapted to a modern context to better protect cattle in wolf areas.
Stakeholder involvement in science-based wolf census in Slovakia
One very common conflict across Europe concerns disagreement over the size and status of carnivore populations. This project involved a diversity of stakeholders, including environmentalists, foresters, protected area staff and hunters, in the collection of wolf scats and urine samples from a study area in central Slovakia. The samples were analyzed using the latest DNA technology to come up with a robust estimate of the number of wolves in the area. The broad involvement of stakeholders and the use of high tech analysis has lead to a greater agreement concerning the local wolf population's size.
Adapting the traditional use of livestock guarding dogs to a modern context
Livestock guarding dogs were traditionally used to protect sheep from large carnivores across southern, central and eastern Europe and much of Central Asia. The tradition stretches back to at least Roman times, but has only persisted in some areas. There have been many projects that try to find ways to restore this traditional practice and adapt it to a modern context. This communication project seeks to raise awareness about all aspects of livestock guarding dogs, including both the challenges and the opportunities that they represent.