Recovery of large carnivores in Europe's modern human-dominated landscapes (Biotechnical Faculty, University of Ljubljana)

Authors: Klemen Jerina, Ivan Kos, Miha Krofel, Aleksandra Majić Skrbinšek, Hubert Potočnik, Tomaž Skrbinšek


By the early 20th century, large carnivores had been exterminated from most of Europe, reduced to relict populations with a poor outlook persisting in remote areas. Today, the situation is entirely different. In many places we now have increasing or stable populations of brown bears, wolves, Eurasian lynx and wolverines, and they do not live in remote wilderness but in a human-dominated landscape.

That is a great difference in comparison to the strategies being pursued in other parts of the world where large carnivores are mainly protected in large national parks or wilderness areas, separated from people, following the "separation model".

If Europe had used that model, it would be nearly devoid of any carnivores because there are not enough large areas of wilderness remaining. What remains in the existing national parks and wildlife reserves is usually too small to support even individual animals. The homerange of a single bear, wolverine, lynx or wolf can measure a couple of hundred and up to a couple of thousand square kilometers. As such, large carnivores in Europe can exist only in coexistence with man.

Researchers from 26 countries, including Slovenia, that have participated in the research have shown that now roughly one-third of mainland Europe hosts at least one large carnivore species. The European situation reveals that through the coexistence paradigm large carnivores and people can share the same high-value landscape even in the densely populated landscapes of modern day Europe.