2000 Years of History

version française

Social Efforts for a History of Wolves


With biodiversity in the world declining, there is debate in Europe regarding the “reappearance” of animal species like wolves. The issue concerns a growing area, and is now crucial in several mountain zones where the return of wolves directly affects livestock farmers. The sometimes violent debates look to the past to justify or contest the place to be accorded to the large predator. In France, where the wolf population was long very dense and where confrontation with men was  sometimes violent, the animal’s return occurs in a new context: the species having been absent for three quarters of a century, men have lost the habit of living in contact with wolves, and with it, all sources of conflict.

Wolves seem to be benefiting from a reversal of opinion, strengthened by the recent concern for biodiversity, the change in their legal status and above all a relationship with the environment which differs greatly from that seen in past centuries: wolves have gone from being a harmful species to a protected animal in a threatened environment. Throughout the territory, the disorientation is so great that it complicates the actions of the public authorities. In areas where wolves have been returning to France since 1992, the subject is even more sensitive because it directly affects professions that are often threatened by the economic context, causing true human tragedies. The same applies elsewhere in Europe, for example in Spain, Italy, or Romania, where wolf numbers are higher and the management of the predator remains a delicate issue.

Yet there is a relationship to a highly complex historical heritage, which still requires scientific assessment. In the current debate, which is sometimes rather vigorous, various elements from the past, removed from their spatio-temporal context, are used in the argument between pro-and anti-wolf parties, in order to impose a viewpoint and defend specific interests. This results in a series of misunderstandings, which interfere with current management and development policies.