Originally, wolves were present in all Europe, in all environments. After having been persecuted and with the decline of the populations of ungulates along with the mass deforestation, wolves have disappeared from the main part of the West and the North of the continent between the end of the XIXth century and the first half of the XXth. Only 2 populations then remained on the western side: one in Italy, in the Abruzzi (in the middle of the Apennines) and the other in Spain (North Western region).
The Iberian peninsula nowadays possesses a population of about 2,500 wolves, in the North Western quarter of Spain and in the areas next to Portugal, which is in a process of expansion towards the South and the South East. The species is also present in the Spanish Basque country, which could lead to an eastward recolonization of the Pyrenees. In Italy, the Abruzzi have been a sanctuary for a small population of wolves. From the 1970s onwards, following the protection of the species, its Italian population has developed and has recolonized the peninsula towards the South and the North to the Alps. The number of wolves on the Italian territory in 2008 is deemed to range from 500 to 800 individuals.
In 2007, the Italian alpine area provided shelter for at least 30 resident individuals, divided into 9 packs among which 5 are currently cross-borders (not counted in the French number of wolves).
In Switzerland, 5 different wolves were identified in 2006, all of them in the alpine area, not settled in packs but seemingly stabilized on the different sites.
Altogether, in the franco-italo-swiss arc, and in the current state of knowledge, there would be at least 30 zones of permanent presence of the species, among which 26 are inhabited by packs (i.e. 1 male + 1 female for two winters in a row or with identified breeding).
In Europe, the diversity of the follow-up methods used to give information concerning the evolution of great carnivore populations limits the possibilities of international comparison. However, a general tendency seems to emerge: among the 25 European countries where investigations were led, Salvatori and Linnel (2005) document at least 20 of them the wolf population of which is either stable or increasing, France belonging to this category.
In Italy, Ciucci and Boitani (1991) mention a rise of 7% a year. In Spain, the growth North of the Duero river seems to be around 15% a year but may be lower on the rest of the natural range.
In the Scandinavian peninsula, the wolf population, after stagnating until the 1990s between 1 and 10 wolves gathered in a single pack, showed an annual growth rate of about 25% thanks to the settling of a second pack. The current population is estimated at about 160 animals.
- Alparc information booklet The great carnivores in the Alps and the Carpathian mountains : wolf, bear, lynx : cohabit with the predators - 2009 - 24 pages -www.alparc.org
- Quoi De Neuf n°8 - p.7: State of the wolf populations in Scandinavia and their dynamics of recolonization in Sweden and Norway (in French)
- Quoi De Neuf n°14 - p.12: Presentation of the situation of the alpine wolf in Switzerland and Italy carried out during the 4th meeting of the "Groupe Loup Alpin" in Saint-Martin-Vésubie (in French)
- Quoi De Neuf n°15 - p.22: Overall view of the different status of protection of wolves in the other European countries (in French)
- Quoi De Neuf n°17 - p.15: Overall situation of wolves in Italian Piedmont and local conflicts with breeders (in French)
- Report on the damages caused by wolves in Italy: the number of attacks increased between 1999 and 2000 and especially in the late months of the high mountain pasture. Penning is the most frequently used protection, with few dogs, a method that must therefore be developed (A. Tropini, 2002) (in French)
- Minutes of the seminar of the LIFE programme of restitution - p.49: State and management of wolf populations in Europe and the conflicts with breeding they induce (in French)