A relatively stable wolf population of approx. 300 individuals can be found in the north of Portugal. Bears have vanished decades ago. Over the last couple of years, no individuals from the Spanish Iberian lynx population could be detected either. However, a relatively large number of stray dogs live in the southern areas, where they cause considerable damage to small livestock. In areas without a continuous wolf presence, the herds are mainly unprotected.
Due to the very low ungulate population in the whole country, the food supply for wolves is scarce. Consequently constant pressure is put on livestock farming.
Since 1988, the wolf is protected in the whole country. Thus the wolf population was able to recover, but the damages to livestock have increased annually. Over the past 10 years the prevention measures as well as the compensation payment system were improved. The legal basis is momentarily being revised.
Within the Management Plan the following measures are regarded as principal in order to ensure the coexistence of wolves and humans:
- Reintroductions and distribution of the wolf´s natural prey species
- Improving the preventative measures
- Improving the compensation system for the small livestock farmers
- Controlling the stray and poaching dogs
- Improving the education and PR-work
Since the 80´s the GRUPO LOBO coordinates the monitoring and preventative measures in collaboration with the Montesinho national park. For the implementation of different research projects a cooperation exists with the University of Lisbon.
The compensation payments for wolf damages are coordinated by the Institut for Conservation and Biodiversity (ICNB).
In the north of Portugal, the agricultural sector is characterized by very small and ineffective structures. In the south the areas are bigger and more intensely cultivated. The production of small livestock is especially important in sparsely inhabited mountainous regions. The sheep and goat farming as well as dairy farming originate from a long tradition. Livestock farming in areas with present wolf populations is organized in small family businesses and depends on subsidies from the EU. Sheep and goats are mainly kept on unproductive ground. Prevention measures for the free grazing horses and cattle are mostly not taken, so that damages can occasionally occur.
To reintroduce herd guarding dogs a breeding program was established to breed, educate and monitor the guarding dogs. Especially the local breeds „Cao de Castro Laboreiro“, „Cao da Serra da Estrela“ and „ Cão de Gado Transmontano “ are used.
Selectively electric fences are also utilized. A systematic, financially supported sponsoring for preventative measures by the state does not exist. Most herds are still attended to by local shepherds. However, due to the general rural flight it gets ever harder to find motivated and qualified people.