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Keywords:

  • mitochondrial DNA;
  • microsatellites;
  • noninvasive monitoring;
  • Spain;
  • Canis lupus;
  • dog;
  • predator control

Abstract

Large predators are recolonizing areas in industrialized countries, where they have been absent for decades or centuries. As they reach these areas, the predators often encounter unwary livestock and unprepared keepers, which translates into large economic costs. The cost per individual may have important repercussions on the conservation and management of large predators. During the years 2003–2004, we collected 136 feces preliminarily identified as belonging to gray wolves Canis lupus along the north-eastern limit of the wolf range in the Iberia peninsula (Basque Country, Spain). Genetic analyses allowed us to identify the species of origin in 86 cases: 31 corresponded to wolves, two to red foxes Vulpes vulpes and 53 to dogs Canis familiaris. Among the wolves, we identified 16 different individuals. We estimated the cost of conserving wolves to be >€3000 per wolf per year, based on the cost of damage compensation and prevention during the 2003–2004 period. However, most of the wolf feces contained wild prey whereas dog feces contained mostly remains of domestic animals. This finding suggests that uncontrolled dogs could be responsible for some of the attacks on livestock, contributing to negative public attitudes toward wolf conservation and increasing its cost.