For the first time since the Italian wild wolf has been protected, national institutions join forces to photograph its distribution and consistency simultaneously from the Alps to Calabria, using sampling schemes and advanced standardized protocols, developed by the Higher Institute for Protection and Environmental Research (ISPRA). The Ministry of the Environment has given a mandate to ISPRA to produce an updated estimate of the distribution and consistency of the wolf at national level.
To respond to this ambitious challenge, ISPRA has created a highly specialized working group, which involves zoologists and geneticists, and has activated a collaboration with Federparchi Europarc Italia (the Italian Federation of Parks and Natural Reserves) and with the LIFE WolfAlps Project EU. “The wolf is one of the best known species in Italy, but also one of the most elusive and difficult to study”, Dr. Piero Genovesi says, head of the ISPRA Wildlife Coordination Service.
“All the projects activated so far on this carnivore have had a local character and have been limited in time: they haven’t been able to produce an accurate estimate at the national level; in order to produce an updated and accurate estimate we have created the Wolf Network involving all local authorities, starting from Regions and National Parks, with 40 associations including WWF, Cai, Legambiente, Lipu, Aigae and we have activated a collaboration with the Forestry Police “.
The ISPRA experts, with the support of a pool of university researchers, have combined in an extremely innovative way a probabilistic sampling scheme with the most advanced survey techniques tested on the species, to obtain an estimate of the wolf population and its distribution. Based on homogeneous operational protocols, field data has been collected since October 2020, by patrolling pre-established paths in about 1,000 cells of ten square kilometers distributed throughout the national territory; the data collection phase is ending in March 2021 and the results of the national monitoring will therefore be made public in the coming months and illustrated in detail, in order to provide a credible and transparent scientific knowledge base.
In the same period, the LIFE WolfAlps-EU project is coordinating and carrying out a similar sampling in the Alpine regions, from Liguria to Friuli-Venezia Giulia. The results of the estimated distribution and abundance of the wolf population in Italy will be processed and presented at the end of 2021 as part of a final event to illustrate the project activities.