LISTEN TO THE AUDIO VERSION
The article presents data on the extirpation of the wolf in southern Ukraine in the 18th to the 20th century, which was financially supported by landowners and the state. This contributed to keeping the wolf population at a low level and then led to a reduction in its range. In the 1970s, in the steppe and forest-steppe zones, wolves permanently lived only in Moldova; in the north of Odesa Oblast; in the Pavlohrad district of Dnipropetrovsk Oblast; in Kharkiv and Donetsk oblasts, as well as in the north of Poltava Oblast. From here, they spread to neighbouring territories, where they were quickly extirpated. The level of wolf decline was so significant, that in 1970 only 18 wolves were recorded in the steppe zone, and 270 in the whole of Ukraine. This contributed to the dispersal of the Roe deer, wild Boar, and Elk to the south. After the reduction in the size of wolf hunting premiums, hunting pressure on wolves also decreased. Since there is a significant positive correlation between wolf population and hunting pressure (r= 0.93), the wolf’s range and population began to grow rapidly. While in 1970 it was found in 14 regions, in 1976 it was already recorded in 18, and in 1981 in 21; in 2000, the wolf occurred in all regions of mainland Ukraine, and in 2003 it entered the Crimea. The process of restoring the wolf’s range was accompanied by the emergence of wolf–dog hybrids, some of which are still occurring. Despite the harvest of 616.8±102.68 wolves per year in 1970–1981, the wolf population increased by 6.5 times in Ukraine, and by more than 10 times in the steppe zone. A significant increase in its numbers was facilitated by a decrease in hunting pressure due to the adoption of the USSR Law ‘On the Protection and Use of Wildlife’in 1980, which prohibited the use of inhumane methods in hunting on wild animals. In 1982–1992, the volume of wolf culling in Ukraine reached 71.1%(45.3–81.5), and in 1993–1999 was equal to 43.1%(34.9–49.3) per year. Naturally, due to the decrease in wolf hunting, there was a sharp increase in the wolf population, which in the steppe zone increased by 1.51 times from 2000 to 2010, and in our country in general by 1.03 times. The process of intensive growth of its population stabilised only at the beginning of the 21st century, when the annual take increased from 34.9%(2000) to 84.0%(2009).