From predation to management: monitoring wolf distribution and understanding depredation patterns from attacks on livestock
More details
Hide details
Area per la Genetica della Conservazione, ISPRA, Ozzano dell’Emilia Bologna, Italy
Dipartimento di Biologia, Università degli Studi di Parma, Italy
Area Conservazione, WWF Italia, Rome, Italy
Dipartimento di Prevenzione U.O. Igiene degli Allevamenti e delle Produzioni Zootecniche, Azienda Sanitaria Regionale Molise, Campobasso, Italy
Online publish date: 2018-05-04
The Italian wolf population, close to extinction in the mid-19th century, now counts about 1800 individuals. Its ongoing expansion raises social conflicts, especially in agricultural and semi-urbanized areas. Thus, monitoring wolf distribution, abundance and impact on the farming economy is a priority for conservation. We analysed canid DNA from 57 swabs from livestock kills, 13 faeces and 21 carcasses, to estimate the minimum number of individuals, their genetic variability and taxon (wolf, dog or hybrids), reconstruct the structure of local wolf packs, and describe the possible hunting patterns in a hitherto poorly investigated area of the Central Apennines. We genotyped, at the mitochondrial DNA control region and at 12 autosomal and four Y-linked microsatellites, 38 swab, three faecal and 19 muscular samples, corresponding to 42 individuals that Bayesian and Multivariate analyses assigned to 28 wolves, nine dogs and five admixed individuals. The minimum number of detected wolves ranged annually from three (2009) to 13 (2011), whereas parentage analyses identified at least three packs with a mean minimum home range of 60 ± 48 km2 and a mean pack size of 4.0 ± 0.9 individuals. The identification of the genetic profiles of the animals involved in the predations revealed that livestock were killed by at least 13 wolves and four dogs, identifying cases of single-individual attacks and cases of cooperation of individual pairs. Integrating information from multigenerational pedigrees with predation patterns we could hypothesize that i) one pack increased livestock attacks after its disruption; ii) one pack showed a mother-offspring collaboration; iii) another pack started livestock predations after two unrelated individuals established a breeding pair. Our analyses of livestock predation events provided useful information on wolf population dynamics, that can be incorporated into local wolf management actions in areas where a regular monitoring is lacking and the predation risk is high.
Romolo Caniglia   
Area per la Genetica della Conservazione, ISPRA, Ozzano dell’Emilia Bologna, Italy, Rome, Italy