Česká verze

The European Commission can help wolves in the Beskydy Mountains

Wolf hunting in Slovakia under investigation

24.6.2013, Carnivores.cz

The European Commission has started an investigation, which could potentially help wolves in the Beskydy Mountains. A legal hunting in Slovakia, which kills around 120 endangered carnivores every year, is being investigated. The investigation was opened following the request from Friends of the Earth Czech Republic, several Slovakian and Polish environmental organizations and hundreds of letters written by citizens of all three countries.

As there is no self-sufficient population of wolves in the Beskydy Mountains, their presence here depends on the migration from neighbouring countries, especially from Slovakia. However, the continued legal hunting prevents their recovery.

Friends of the Earth Czech Republic, who organize the monitoring and conservation of large carnivores along the Czech-Slovak border, have been observing only a sporadic presence of wolves for the last three years. Last year, for instance, the only confirmed wolf was a female killed by car near the town Valašské Meziříčí.

Wolf killed by car near Valasske Mezirici in 2012. Photo: M.Bojda

The hunting quotas are set every year by the national government; however, no reliable information on the actual numbers of wolves is available making it impossible to properly assess the impact of hunting on the wolf population. According to the official sources, the number of wolves in Slovakia is estimated in the range of 202 to 410.

During the last hunting season, 150 wolves were legally culled across the Slovak Republic. In the last ten years, almost 1,200 of these endangered and protected carnivores have died.

Female wolf killed legally in Slovakia. Photo J. Lukáč

In addition to legal hunting, the illegal poaching and risks posed by the dense road and railway network also prevent wolves from returning to suitable habitats in the Czech Republic. Several overpasses or ecoducts required to reduce mortality at the points of roads with the highest risk are yet to be built.

The Slovakian environmental organization Lesoochranske zoskupenie VLK pointed out to the European Commission that the wolf hunting is in contradiction with the European legislation. Friends of the Earth CZ (Hnutí DUHA) and Polish organization Pracownia rzecz Wszytskich lstot also drew the Commission's attention to this conflict.

Wolves are fully protected in the neighbouring states: the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary. Under the binding EU directives, the grey wolf is considered the priority species which the Member States undertake to protect.
The European Commission, which oversees the adherence to the EU legislation, has opened a special investigation of the Slovak Republic – so called "infringement". If it concludes that Slovakia is acting in contrary to the European legislation, the case will be brought before Court of Justice of the European Union.

A young wolf in Slovakia threatened by legal hunting. Photo: Friends of the Earth Czech Republic

The Polish Ministry of Environment has also complained about the hunting of wolves in Slovakia. Its officials have called on the Slovak authorities to stop the wolf hunting in the buffer zone within the distance of 23 kilometres from the Polish-Slovak border. Applying such restrictions would at least protect the wolves whose territories span both sides of the border. So far, the Slovak government has ignored all the appeals with new hunting quotas for the 2013/2014 season to be set this autumn.

Unlike its Polish counterpart, the Czech Ministry of Environment has not yet issued a written complaint but has previously expressed the disagreement with the ongoing wolf hunting in Slovakia. Based on the Czech ministry's initiative ten years ago a small zone was established in the Slovak region of Čadca, where wolves are protected all year round.

The European Commission confirmed that this is the first time the Slovak Republic is being investigated for breaking the EU regulations on nature conservation.

Friends of the Earth Czech Republic work for the rewilding of the Czech landscape – our priorities include the protection and recovery of native forest ecosystems, free-flowing rivers and endangered animal species such as wolves and lynx.

Miroslav Kutal of Friends of the Earth Czech Republic said:

"Wolves are rare and beautiful animals which should remain the part of Czech landscape. The legal hunting in Slovakia damages the Czech environment too, as it can prevent wolves from expanding to our side of the border. The European Commission has started the investigation and that is a big step forward. The small territory in the Slovak region of Čadca, where wolves are protected during the whole year, has proved to be completely insufficient."

"We hope that in the years to come, Slovakia will abandon the unreasonably high quotas for the hunting of its wolves; or at least restricts the hunting along its borders with the Czech Republic and Poland. Wolves should be protected as strictly as the lynx whose decline has been reversed thanks to the complete protection status. The lynx numbers in the Beskydy Mountains are steadily increasing."

The map of areas where wolves are protected in SlovakiaThe area where wolves are protected all year round does not cover the core area of wolf distribution in Slovakia


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