Animals: EU Commission wants to lower protection status for wolves

The European Commission wants to relax the strict protection rules for wolves.

Animals: EU Commission wants to lower protection status for wolves

The European Commission wants to relax the strict protection rules for wolves. It is proposed to lower the wolf's status from "strictly protected" to "protected", the Brussels authority announced on Wednesday. This would allow the hunting of wolves to be authorized if it does not endanger the preservation of populations.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the return of the wolf was good news for biodiversity in Europe. However, the density of wolf packs in some European regions has now become a real danger, particularly for livestock farming.

Von der Leyen cited an analysis published at the same time that shows that wolf populations have increased significantly in the last two decades and are occupying ever larger areas. According to this, there are now more than 20,000 wolves with mostly growing populations and expanding ranges as well as packs with pups in 23 Member States.

More than 1000 wolf attacks in Germany

With the proposal to reduce the protection status for wolves, the EU Commission is particularly responding to the demands of livestock owners and farmers. These have been pointing to increasing problems for a long time. In Germany alone, the number of wolf attacks on farm animals rose significantly to more than 1,000 cases last year, according to a report. More than 4,000 farm animals were killed or injured.

It initially remained unclear on Wednesday whether the federal government would support the initiative. At the beginning of the year, Environment Minister Steffi Lemke spoke out clearly against lowering the protection status for wolves and pointed out, among other things, that the shooting of individual conspicuous wolves is already possible under certain conditions.

Around three weeks ago, the federal and state environment ministers agreed that problematic wolves that have overcome protective fences and killed livestock can be killed in Germany much more quickly than before. Unlike before, you don't have to wait for a DNA analysis first.

Environment Minister warns against demonization

In an interview with the German Press Agency, Lemke recently warned against demonizing the wolf shortly before the EU initiative. “He is the closest relative of one of our most popular pets, the dog, and that is why we should not act as if the wolf is garbage and can go away,” said the Green politician. A balance must be struck between grazing livestock and the fact that the wolf has resettled in Germany.

Shortly beforehand, a walker may have been attacked by a wolf in Brandenburg last week. According to police information on Thursday, the 47-year-old was walking with his dog in a forest when he encountered the animal. It attacked the dog. When the man intervened, he was bitten several times and suffered serious injuries. Genetic studies should now clarify whether the man was actually attacked by a wolf.

Proposal needs broad support

In order to implement the EU Commission's proposal, at least 15 of the 27 EU states would have to agree to it in a first step. At the same time, however, they must together represent at least 65 percent of the total population of the EU. In the next step, the proposal would then have to be presented to the other contracting parties to the so-called Berne Convention. This is intended to ensure the conservation of European wild plants and animals and their natural habitats throughout Europe and beyond.

Environmental and nature conservation organizations such as BUND, Nabu and WWF criticized the EU Commission's actions on Wednesday and called for herd protection to be improved. “All scientific studies show that the number of livestock deaths depends on the quality of herd protection and not on the number of wolves,” said BUND chairman Olaf Band.

The German Hunting Association (DJV), however, welcomed the EU Commission's initiative. It shows once again that they are ready to take a pragmatic path towards population management for wolves, said DJV President Helmut Dammann-Tamke. "It is now up to the federal government, especially Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke, to stop hiding behind European nature conservation law."

Commission President von der Leyen was optimistic on Wednesday that solutions could be found to protect not only biological diversity, but also the livelihoods of the rural population. The politician herself had a sad experience with an animal in the past. In September 2022, a gray wolf killed her 30-year-old pony Dolly in her home in Lower Saxony.