Yesterday, a study was published in Science that showed that populations of large carnivores are flourishing in Europe, even in areas inhabited by people. This study wasn’t news to me, because there is already quite a bit of literature showing that large carnivore populations are growing in Europe, discussing how to regulate them and how to predict population growth and habitat use. But what was novel to me: It was the first media message that I have seen in the U.S. that told a different story than the conflict between people and large carnivores.
Even stories covering the carnivore situation in Europe previously presented it as a conflict, ignoring the fact that Europe and many countries therein have been proactive in preventing such inflammatory interactions. As the Science paper notes, livestock owners are compensated if any animals are killed by a carnivore, and government incentives for establishing preventive measures to protect livestock, such as trained guardian dogs and fencing, are in place. Wolves in Europe are taking up residence in habitats as varied as garbage dumps and remote woodlands, adapting to the circumstances at hand. As Michelle Nijhuis said in her report in The New Yorker, the U.S. could learn something from Europe, which has more than double the number of wolves and is more than twice as densely populated (according to the new Science study).
What’s amazing is that humans and carnivores are living alongside one another quite successfully–so much so that people often don’t realize the predators are around. In the US, urban coyotes are residents in quite populated areas. In Durham, where I live, the coyote population is established and growing, but seeing or even hearing one is pretty rare. I’ve set out to do so, though: I have enrolled in the NC Museum of Natural Sciences’s eMammal project to camera trap wildlife in my neighborhood and its parks.