There as been the claim that European and North American wolves behave differently, especially when it comes to encounters with humans. This was brought up in a comment in this question on a wolf encounter in Bulgaria.

The claim seems to be that European wolves are more aggressive than their brethren across the pond.

Is this true? Are there measurable differences? What are the differences and can they be explained?

  • This is just a comment as I repeat speculation about peculiarities specific for western and central Europe (Central European Lowland population in Poland + Germany, Italian-French population). In the EU, wolves are protected under the Habitats Directive, and are closely monitored as well as protected. One specialty of these populations in central and western Europe are that they are under strict protection and are growing very rapidly (e.g. Germany: ≈ +30 % annually. 2015/16 -> 2016/17: proven no. packs 47 -> 60, scent marking pairs 15 -> 13, single resident wolves 4 -> 3, ... Jun 11 '18 at 19:47
  • puppies 172 (- 5 dead) -> 214 (- 18 dead). Note that the puppies take 2 years to become adults. found dead: 36 -> 52, about 70 % traffic accidents, 10 % illegal killings, 2016/17 1 legal killing (wolf management), source: dbb-wolf.de/mehr/literatur-download/statusberichte). There are discussions whether the wolves learn not to fear humans under the very strict protection they have, and there are indications that they learn to circumvent/ignore the herd protection measures for sheep and cattle. Jun 11 '18 at 20:58
  • Wotschikowsky reports a discussion at an international meeting in Postojna 2013 discussing hunting of wolves. He says, one of the topics was whether hunting helps keeping the wolves shy (of humans and human habitations), i.e. helps preventing the development of "problem wolves". But he says that there is no scientific knowledge about this available so far, and that proper studies would be needed. Jun 11 '18 at 21:01

I can speak for Italy, but bare in mind two things. First, I am an economist, interested into wolves because of side projects (i.e. the connection between the increase in the wolves population and local tourism) and sheer passion for nature. Second, the Italian wolf is different from the Eurasian wolf, which is more common in Europe, while the former is mostly in Italy, and in part on Swiss and French Alps. To my knowledge, the danger to humans, from Italian wolves, derives mostly from two interrelated aspects: (i) proximity to towns; (ii) hybridization (see here and here for evidence of hybridization in Italy). Because of those two factors, a higher percentage of local wolves might be less afraid of humans and, thus, more prone to come in contact with them. Besides that, I am not sure I have heard of average differences in behaviors.

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