An Apennine grey wolf in the snow


© Bruno D’Amicis / Nature Picture Library


The wolf has always been present in Italy and was widespread in the mountains and plains of the peninsula until the end of the 19th century. Then during the 20th century, especially after World War II, human persecution drastically reduced its population. Its extermination was permitted by Italian law, which included the wolf among the species considered as “vermin”, as it attacked livestock and its presence conflicted with the hunting interests of the time.
The situation for the wolf was never as bad as at the beginning of the 1970s: it was estimated that wolves were no longer present in the Alps and that only a hundred or so had survived in the Apennines. Faced with these disconcerting data, in 1971, the Italian state decreed that the species be removed from the list of “vermin”. An important campaign known as “Operation St. Francis” was also initiated by the WWF, together with the Abruzzo National Park, to dispel the myth of the “bad” wolf. The campaign had good results and today the wolf population numbers between 1,200 and 2,400 individuals, distributed mainly in the Apennines.
Yet even though it is a protected species, the threats to the survival of wolves remain the same today. They are killed by poisoned bait put out by livestock farmers and hunters and there is also the issue of hybridisation with dogs, an increasingly frequent phenomenon that risks compromising the characteristic traits of the species (Canis lupus italicus, the Apennine wolf, is a subspecies of the European grey wolf), such as its ability to hunt. The Apennine wolf is important precisely because of its genetic and morphological uniqueness and the species must therefore be safeguarded, favouring solutions that allow it to coexist peacefully with man.

Martina Lando