The core of the Iberian wolf population lies in Castilla y Leon and the mountainous areas of Galicia and Asturias. Momentarily the population is expanding south- and eastwards. With approx. 2000 individuals, it is the biggest wolf population in Western Europe. The dispersal of the brown bear is reduced to three small and independent populations, which together amount to 30 - 50 individuals. Due to poaching and habitat loss, the brown bear is diminishing in the mountainous regions of Leon, Asturias, as well as in the Pyrenees. In the south-west of the country approx. 140- 200 individuals of the Iberian Lynx still remain. As it is the most endangered cat in the world, its future survival is uncertain.
While the wolf is still strictly protected to the south of the river Duero, controlled hunting due to looser protection, is possible to the north of the river. The considerably different dispersal of wolves across their habitat requires regionally adapted management plans. A national strategy (doc) was formulated in 2003.
The management plan of Castilla y Leon serves as a foundation for the other regions. Due to the high wolf density and the therewith accompanied conflicts, Castilla y Leon created three zones based on ecological and socio-economic factors.
The main management goal for the brown bear and the Iberian lynx is the conservation of the species, especially since conflicts with hunters or agriculturalists are less common due to their sparse distribution.
Damages are registered for both small and large domestic animals, dependent on the agricultural structure, and can vary greatly regionally. Hence the damage potential also varies between the different regions. However, the biggest problems arise on the summering pastures in Cordilla Cantabrica, where the animals are often left unattended. Furthermore, in areas where the wolf is recolonizing, farmers are mostly completely unprepared for taking protection measures.
Neither a national damage statistic, nor a uniform compensation system exists. Compensations depend on the protection status, the local authorities and the verification of killed livestock. Both extensively used and remote areas, as well as intensively used areas in densely populated regions are affected by wolf attacks.
First priority is to enable the coexistence between wolves and agriculturalists. Therefore the functioning of protection measures is central. These include
- Structural measures on pastures and infrastructure installations
- Optimizing the utilization of livestock guarding dogs (Spanish Mastiff)
- Establishing fences (especially electrified installed fences)
- Regular control of damages and consulting by rangers and agricultural advisers
- Detailed knowledge about conflict areas, pack behavior and the agricultural risks
- Clever zoning for conflict management, which incorporates socio-economic conditions
So far only the province of Castilla y Leon is supported by the government and partially receives financial assistance for protection measures.