The Commission has initiated a range of measures to conserve large carnivores in the EU. The recovery of large carnivores in the EU also contributes to the objectives of the European Green Deal’s EU biodiversity strategy for 2030. This is the EU’s plan to put biodiversity on the path to recovery by 2030. It contains specific commitments and actions to protect nature and reverse the degradation of ecosystems, building on existing nature laws.
In the EU
6 Large carnivore species are present in Europe: Brown bear (Ursus arctos), Wolf (Canis lupus), Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx), the highly threatened Iberian lynx (Lynx pardina), Wolverine (Gulo gulo) and Golden jackal (Canis aureus).
All mainland EU countries host at least one large carnivore species.
To ensure the conservation of a wide range of rare, threatened or endemic animal and plant species, the Habitats Directive requires Member States to establish a system of strict protection, prohibiting namely deliberate killing, capture or disturbance of species in the wild, as well as the deterioration or destruction of their breeding sites or resting places. Under Article 16, the Habitats Directive allows for derogations to this system of strict protection, under certain conditions. Derogations should always be used as a last resort. Read this summary guidance document for more information.
Distribution of large carnivores
The ongoing recovery of many large carnivores’ in Europe is a recognised conservation success, made possible by protective legislation, more favourable public attitudes and habitat improvements.
While the recovery of large carnivores can be viewed as a success, it has also resulted in the resurgence of conflicts with some stakeholders. This is mainly because large carnivores, in particular wolves, after an absence of decades (or longer) have returned to some parts of Europe, where the knowledge and the practices of living with them had been lost. This concerns, in particular (but not only) livestock predation in the areas where shepherding or other traditional systems to manage and protect livestock had been abandoned.
In response, and to support implementation of the Habitats Directive on the ground, the Commission has for many years been carrying out a range of measures to encourage and facilitate dialogue and cooperation between stakeholders and to promote best practices on coexistence. In this spirit, the European Commission supported the establishment of the EU Platform on Coexistence between People and Large Carnivores in 2014 and the Regional Platforms on People and Large Carnivores in 2018 to promote ways and find solutions to minimize conflicts between human interests and the presence of large carnivores. Latest findings are summarised in this toolkit.
Data collection on wolves
The return of the wolf to EU regions where it has been absent for a long time is increasingly leading to conflicts with local farming and hunting communities, especially where measures to prevent attacks on livestock are not widely implemented or where the knowledge and the practices of living with them has been lost.
In response to the European Parliament Resolution of 24 November 2022 on the protection of livestock farming and large carnivores in Europe, the Commission has initiated an in-depth analysis of all available scientific and technical data, and all other relevant circumstances at hand. In April 2023, it started collecting data from expert groups and key stakeholders, as well as the data reported by national authorities under the existing EU and international legislation.
On 4 September 2023, the Commission launched a new phase of the data collection, inviting interested parties such as local communities, regional authorities and scientists to submit up-to-date verified scientific data on wolf populations, such as number of individuals and/or packs in a specified territory, and/or verified data on damage on livestock (number of predations on sheep, goats, cattle, horses, donkeys, semi-domestic reindeers and dogs) and on cases of bold wolves. These data must be based on agreed national monitoring methodologies or other official procedures/methodologies. Such data will also be transmitted to the relevant Member States before finalising the analysis.
The data collection was open until 22 September 2023. The Commission is currently considering the inputs received with a view to underpinning its analysis on the issue of wolves in the EU, to be finalised by the end of the year. Member States and stakeholder organisations will be consulted in this process, including via the Nature Directives sub-expert group.
Concerning the data collection on the wolf populations and their impact that closed on 22/09/2023, please note that European Commission is committed to protect your personal data and to respect your privacy. The Commission collects and further processes personal data pursuant to Regulation (EU) 2018/1725 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2018 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data by the Union institutions, bodies, offices and agencies and on the free movement of such data (repealing Regulation (EC) No 45/2001). For more information on how your personal data in relation to this consultation is processed please consult the Specific Privacy Statement. In case of any questions please contact functional mailbox: EC-WOLF-DATA-COLLECTIONec [dot] europa [dot] eu (EC-WOLF-DATA-COLLECTION[at]ec[dot]europa[dot]eu).
On the basis of the data collected, the Commission will decide on a proposal to modify, where appropriate, the status of protection of the wolf within the EU and to update the legal framework, to introduce, where necessary, further flexibility, in the light of the evolution of this species.
To support Member States and other stakeholders, the Commission issued Guidance on the strict protection of animal species in 2021 inter alia by offering information and advice on how to address conflicts between strictly protected species and human activities. A dedicated Annex on the wolf has been included in the guidance.
The EU also supports Member States in ensuring coexistence with large carnivores through the available financial instruments, such as LIFE, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EARDF) or the European Regional Development Fund Interreg instrument.
Since 1992 the LIFE programme funded more than 170 projects dealing with large carnivores. For more information visit the LIFE Public Database (insert "wolf", "brown bear", "lynx", "wolverine" in search bar) or find an overview of large carnivore-related LIFE projects here.
Documents & useful links
- Habitats Directive: Guidance on protected species
- Letter Commissioners Sinkevicius and Wojciechowski to EU Environment and Agriculture Ministers on Guidance Document
- EU platform on coexistence between people & large carnivores
- EU platform poster
- LIFE and Human coexistence with large carnivores
- Coexisting with large carnivores: the challenge and the opportunity
- Large Carnivore Initiative for Europe (IUCN /SSC specialist group)
- Carnivore Damage Prevention News
- LCIE Guidelines for Population Level Management Plans for Large Carnivores
- Technical report: Key actions for Large Carnivore populations in Europe
Subscribe here to the biannual newsletter of the EU Large Carnivore Platform
For questions about EU environmental policy, please contact Europe Direct.
- News blog
The immersive exhibition "through the eyes of a wolf" lets visitors experience the the perspective of a young wolf in dispersal in Italy.
- News blog
Slovakia and Switzerland collaborated and combined scientific monitoring, genetic rescue efforts, and extensive public engagement to preserve lynx populations.
- News blog
Preventing the extinction of the Dinaric-SE alpine lynx population through reinforcement, long-term conservation and engagement of key stakeholders
The Dinaric-SE Alpine lynx population went extinct at the beginning of 20th century due to hunting and persecution, habitat loss and lack of prey species. It was successfully reintroduced in the 1973 by translocating animals from a Carpathian source to Slovenia.
Event on ‘Co-existence of livestock farming and large carnivores in Europe’