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Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park

Wolves have always been present in the territory of Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park (150.000 ha), although their number has suffered a severe decline until the early 1970ties. In the past years the population has grown again and the area is now home to a stable wolf population. In the park territory the number of these animals is assessed since 2006, with the use of the “wolf-howling” technique, which foresees the emission of acoustic stimulations that should provoke the response of wolf packs or individuals in the nearby. The data collected in 2009 have revealed the presence in the territory of 12 reproductive packs. Assuming that each pack is composed by 4-5 individuals, and adding a minimum number of lone individuals or wolves in dispersion, the wolf population in the park territory is estimated at 65-80 wolves. This suggests that the park territory is home to one of the most consistent wolf populations in the entire Italian wolf distribution area.
Data about bears in this area are scarce, and refer to the registration of a small number of tracks and other signs retrieved in the past years. According to the presently available information it is not possible to confirm the presence of bears in the area. However, due to the importance of the park territory as a possible area of expansion of the mother population in the Abruzzo Lazio e Molise National Park, the collection of data about the presence of this species is a crucial objective of the present project.

Monti Sibillini National Park

Also in Monti Sibillini National Park (70 000 ha) wolves have always been present, even in the 1970s and 80s, when the population reached its minimum numbers at national levels. This area has probably represented the northern range of the area of distribution for a long period.
The number of wolves has been estimated in 2003, 2004 and 2008, and new population assessment activities have started in the frame of the LIFE EX-TRA Project. The information available up to now suggests a strong growth of the population: in fact, the number of registered packs has increased from 3 in 2003 to 5 or 6 in 2008, with a total estimated number of 27 individuals. This species is regularly distributed over the park territory, and additional packs seem to be present in neighbouring areas.
The marsican brown bear (Ursus arctos marsicanus) got extinct in the territory of Monti Sibillini National Park in the middle of the 19th century. The comeback of roaming indiviguals has been registered in the past 15 years from the retrieval of different signs. Since 2006 the presence of one male bear has been confirmed. The presence and the movements of this individual are constantly monitored and its area of movement has been estimated on 335 km2, also reaching areas outside the park territory.

Appennino tosco-emiliano National Park

In the territory of Appennino tosco-emiliano National Park (22 726 ha) the integrated interpretation of results obtained through indirect monitoring techniques in the past years (from 2001 to 2006) allowed an estimate of the presence of 4 wolf packs with an average of 3 individuals per pack. These individuals seem to be relatively regularly distributed across the park range, with a density of 2 animals/100 km2. In recent years these animals have shown a reproductive activity, which allows to assume that the population is increasing.

In this area bears have got extinct between the 17th and 18th century.

Threats and problems

The main reasons for the vulnerability of wolves and bears, also within protected areas, are bonded to different types of interactions with human activities.
The presence of the predators can cause conflicts with livestock the livestock raising activities, in which animals are often left free-ranging and even unattended on the pastures, like this being strongly exposed to predation. The killing of livestock by wild carnivores causes strong negative feelings in livestock owners and shepherds, which can turn into a strong aversion of the species.
Another reason for the persecution of wolves is also the competition with hunters through the killing of wild ungulates.
Poaching is done with the use of fire weapons, snares and poison, and this phenomenon has locally been increasing in the past years.
This problem has recently also represented a threat for bears in central Italy. This population is very small and the poisoning of one single animal has a strong impact on its conservation.

For both bears and wolves also human interference in the environment can be a threat. The exploitation of forests locally cause heavy disturbance and the fragmentation of the habitats, which area already not too homogeneous in this country. Also the presence of roads can be a danger due to traffic collisions with the predators and their natural prey.

 

Credits: Pina Leone

 

Credits: Gino Damiani

 

Credits: Gino Damiani

 

Credits: Umberto Di Nicola -PNGSL Archive

 

Credits: Paola Fazzi

 

Credits: Umberto Di Nicola -PNGSL Archive

 

Credits: Paola Fazzi

 

Credits: Annette Mertens