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Ecological correlates of large carnivore depredation on sheep in Europe. Global Gervasi V, Linnell JD, Berce T, Boitani L, Cretois B, Ciucci P, Duchamp C, Gastineau A, Grente O, Derron-Hilfiker D, Huber D. Ecology and Conservation. 2021 Sep

ABSTRACT

Sharing space with large carnivores on a human-dominated continent like Europe results in multiple conflictful interactions with human interests, of which depredation on livestock is the most widespread. We conducted an analysis of the impact by all four European large carnivores on sheep farming in 10 European countries, during the period 2010–2015. We ran a hierarchical Simultaneous Autoregressive model, to assess the influence of several ecological factors on the reported depredation levels. About 35,000 (SD = 4110) sheep kills were compensated in the ten countries as caused by large carnivores annually, representing 0.5% of the total sheep stock. Of them, 45% were recognized as killed by wolves, 24% by wolverines, 19% by lynx and 12% by bears. We found a positive relationship between wolf distribution and the number of compensated sheep, but not for the other three species. Depredation levels were lower in the areas where large carnivore presence has been continuous compared to areas where they disappeared and returned in the last 50 years. Our study shows that a few large carnivores can produce high damage, when the contribution of environmental, social, and economic systems predisposes for it, whereas large populations can produce a limited impact when the same components of the system reduce the probability that depredations occur. Time of coexistence plays in favour of a progressive reduction in the associated costs, provided that the responsible agencies focus their attention both on compensation and co-adaptation.

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