Large carnivores in Europe

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.
Wolf (Canis lupus)

This revival 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 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 Member States 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 and their conservation needs to be planned on very wide spatial scales which span many intra- and international administrative and jurisdictional borders.

In June 2014, the European Commission launched the EU Platform on Coexistence between People and Large Carnivores. 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. IUCN is one of the stakeholders represented on the Platform.

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