How many wolves are living in Switzerland and in my canton, respectively?
The current population estimate for the Swiss wolf population can be found under Abundance. KORA does not estimate the population per canton, because wolves require very large areas and often cross administrative boundaries.
Where do the wolves in Switzerland originate from?
Originally, the wolves recolonised Switzerland from a very small population that remained on the Italian peninsula (Appenine) via the Italian-French Alps. Wolves are capable of covering enormous distances (up to 1,500 km) during their dispersal. In the case of Switzerland, their origin can be traced to the recolonising wolves through genetics. They have a unique genetic property (a specific haplotype, i.e. a characteristic sequence of DNA on a chromosome), which is only found in wolves from that Italian population. The numerous packs in the Alps are now designated as a separate Alpine population. In 2020 for the first time, wolves were identified in Switzerland originating from the Central European and the Dinaric population, respectively (see Distribution, Section Europe).
Are there wolf-dog hybrids in Switzerland?
Among the wolves that have been genetically identified in Switzerland so far, the proportion of individuals showing signs of hybridisation with dogs is insignificant. The wolf monitoring in Switzerland is extensive and mainly performed by analysing genetic samples. Correspondingly, the detection and identification of possible wolf-dog-hybrids is high. Contrary to other regions, there is no population of feral dogs in Switzerland with which wolves could mate, minimizing the chance of hybridization events.
Does the wolf even have space in densely populated Switzerland?
All of Europe is a cultural landscape shaped by humans. Wolves are very adaptable and can live well in such a landscape. They require enough food as well as largely undisturbed retreat areas to raise their young. At least 50% of Switzerland is suitable habitat for the wolf, especially the Alps and the Jura mountains. Purely based on biology, 50–100 packs could theoretically live in this area.
What is the influence of the wolf on its prey?
The effects in ecosystems influenced by predators are highly complex. There are studies showing positive as well as negative effects. We distinguish between a direct (numerical) impact on the abundance and demography of the prey populations (red deer, roe deer, chamois and wild boar) on the one hand, and an indirect impact (e.g. on the distribution of the prey in the landscape) on the other hand. Generally, wolves prey on young, old or ill individuals, but also on careless adult individuals. As such, wolves prey selectively and contribute to the fitness of prey populations. Where large carnivores are present, prey animals avoid locations with higher predation risk, e.g. open forest clearances or ditches, and adapt their behaviour, for example by being more vigilant. Depending on the habitat quality, wolves can – in combination with hunting – limit local prey populations. With the remains of their kills, they also offer food for many scavengers (fox, wild boar, martens, vultures, eagles, ravens, insects).
How many livestock animals are killed by wolves per year?
Between 2006 and 2019, the number of livestock animals killed by wolves varied between ca. 100 and 500 animals. In 2020, this number rose to 815 (see also Depredation). The attacks are mostly on sheep. In rare cases, depending on the situation, wolves are also able to kill calves and young cattle.
Why do wolves sometimes kill more than they can eat?
In a single attack, a wolf may kill one sheep or several. Understandably, we have bred the flight reflex out of our livestock species. Sheep do not flee far or fast enough. Consequently, wolves can kill several sheep as their kill reflex is triggered repeatedly, as long as a prey animal is moving within reach. A wild animal has a completely different flight behaviour. If a wolf attacks a group of deer, the whole group flees within a few seconds in all directions. Consequently, the wolf can usually only catch a single animal, if any at all. If wolves are not disturbed they may also return to a kill, or carry pieces of a kill away and cache it for later consumption.
Does the wolf present a danger to humans?
A healthy, wild wolf is usually not dangerous to humans. Wolves generally avoid encounters with humans. They react to humans with extreme caution and normally not aggressively. However, there are factors which can increase the risk of an attack: 1) Rabies: Reports about attacks in earlier centuries can largely be attributed to rabid wolves. Switzerland and most European countries are nowadays rabies-free. 2) Habituation: wolves can lose their shyness towards humans e.g. through feeding, which can lead to problematic behaviour. 3) Provocation: if a wolf gets provoked and is cornered, it can defend itself. The last known death caused by a wolf in Europe happened in 1975 in Spain. Since the natural recolonisation of Switzerland (1995), there have been no known cases of intrusive or aggressive wolves. Wolves that develop problematic behaviour with the potential to endanger humans, may be shot according to the Swiss wolf concept (Appendix 5; DE, FR, IT).
How should I behave when encountering a wolf?
Usually, a wolf will retreat as soon as it notices a human. Young wolves may be more curious and less cautious than adult wolves. If the wolf does not notice you, or does not retreat, you should do the following:
Get yourself noticed (e.g. talking, shouting, clapping your hands together) and slowly walk backwards. Do not run.
If you have a dog with you: Call your dog to your side and put in on the leash. Loudly talk to the wolf to distract its interest from the dog. Slowly walk backwards with the dog close by your side and continue to talk loudly. Make sure that your dog does not itself try to attack the wolf.
If the wolf (contrary to expectation) should follow you, stop where you are, and shout at it loudly. Try to intimidate it, make yourself as big as possible and possibly throw something at it. Rather advance on the animal than retreat.
Never feed a wolf. Wolves, that have been habituated to humans over some time, especially through feeding, may develop intrusive and brazen behaviour. This may become dangerous to humans.
Please report striking observations immediately to the local game warden.
Is the wolf even necessary?
This question is often asked for animal species, whose presence is not approved by all people. The wolf is part of the native fauna. As a top predator, it plays a significant part in the interactions of species and habitats, and the corresponding evolutionary processes. As such, it is an integral part of maintaining biodiversity which is also the foundation of human existence.