Friday, April 19

The wolf chooses the summits of Gredos to return to Extremadura


On the summits of the Sierra de Gredos, around the border between the provinces of Cáceres and Ávila, in a high mountain habitat, protected and populated by mountain goats, deer and wild boar. There, the Iberian wolf, the mythical species whose trail was lost in the region in 1993, has reappeared in Extremadura.

That year the last official record was found, a male that lived in the Sierra de San Pedro and was killed by a poacher. Four years earlier, the body of the last female that the administration had news of had been found on the Cáceres-Badajoz highway (the N-523, former EX-100). She was run over, detailed the Board last December, when she said that she had sent to Portugal several biological samples collected in the Valle del Jerte, Ambroz and La Vera that she believed could be from ‘canis lupus’.

On the 17th, the laboratory of the Center for Research in Biodiversity and Genetic Resources of Portugal (CIBIO-BIÓPOLIS), attached to the University of Porto, confirmed that the sample collected in Villanueva de La Vera on July 29, 2021 by personnel from the Directorate General for Sustainability corresponded to a female Iberian wolf with the DNA of the central-northern Spanish species.

You were expected in this place

The news had been expected for years, so it was not too surprising. Nor the place of the reappearance, to which the Ministry for the Ecological Transition and Sustainability already pointed two months ago. «In Ávila –he explained then–, the presence of five herds was confirmed three years ago, and one in Salamanca, these populations being the ones that in the future could extend to the north of the province of Cáceres, specifically to the ZEC (Zona of Special Conservation) Sierra de Gata and Sierra de Gredos and Valle del Jerte».

And in the latter is where his trail has been recovered almost thirty years later. The Sierra de Gredos and Valle del Jerte ZEC covers almost 70,000 hectares, of which 13,000 (18%) belong to Villanueva de La Vera, where the novelty does not seem to have unleashed any storm. “In the town, the news has not generated any striking reaction, I have not detected any concern,” says its mayor, the socialist Antonio Caperote, who presided over the Cáceres Provincial Council between 2001 and 2003.

«It is the highest and steepest area of ​​the sierra, and where I am not aware that he has won»

antonio caperote

Mayor of Villanueva de la Vera

«I remember that as a child a man came to town asking for money while showing a dead wolf»

longinos escobedo

Resident of Villanueva de la Vera

“The Board must now issue a decree with aid in the event of an attack”

angel garcia white

Asaja Extremadura

«The place where the excrement was collected –explains the alderman– is in the summits of Gredos, in the highest and steepest part of the mountain range, a fairly clean area of ​​vegetation that accounts for approximately a third of our municipal term and to which the neighbors do not go up, beyond the three or four owners who have farms there ».

“It is an area of ​​Hispanic mountain goat and in which I have no evidence that it has won,” explains Caperote, who remembers having heard of wolves “since he was a child.” “But that was half a century or more ago, and nothing had been heard of since then,” the mayor concludes.

Skepticism and memories of the wolfhound

“I read the news and left it in quarantine, I neither believed it nor stopped believing it,” Longinos Escobedo was honest last Tuesday in the town’s main square, in full celebration of the Pero Palo carnival party. «When I was a boy –explains the neighbor–, I remember that a man riding a donkey came to town and asked for money while a dead wolf raged. People paid him as thanks for killing a vermin that could attack cattle.

He was a wolfhound, an everyday figure in some towns in Extremadura long ago. “For years, the species was very abundant in the region,” assured TODAY in 2011 Francisco Gragera, author of ‘The Iberian wolf in Baja Extremadura’ (Universitas Editorial)’ and ‘The legacy of the wolf’ (Regional Editor of Extremadura ). Recognized as one of the greatest experts in Spain on this matter, the author explained in that interview that «in the mid-19th century, more wolves were killed in the province of Badajoz than in all of Galicia. It was the number one province in the national ranking of killed wolves, and Cáceres was not far behind.

Two wolf specimens. /

today

To the question of which were the places on the regional map most propitious for the reappearance of the species, Gragera replied that “where there is big game.” And that, precisely, is where he has returned to show his face. Because the place where the presence of the wolf has been confirmed is in the area of ​​influence of the La Sierra Regional Hunting Reserve, where there is the largest concentration of Iberian ibex of the ‘victoriae’ subspecies, highly prized among hunters. It is a hunting paradise in which Spaniards, Russians, Canadians or North Americans have killed pieces after paying several thousand euros.

“The area (where the presence of the wolf has been certified) is abundant in wild ungulates and suids on which the species feeds,” explains the Board. Among them, “the mountain goat, the deer or the wild boar”, expands the Ministry, which adds that this canid “plays an important role as a health regulator, by consuming as prey the sick specimens and the weakest affected by tuberculosis, scabies or other pathogens, parasites or viruses.

Between vultures, hawks and brooms

The environment of this corner of Extremadura where the ‘canis lupus signatus’ has reappeared is dotted with brooms, heaths, scrubs, jarales and grasslands. Winter is dry and cold, easily reaching two degrees below zero, while summer is also dry but warm for these altitudes, with temperatures of up to 22 degrees Celsius. It is also the habitat of the wild cat, Iberian desman, golden eagle, black stork, peregrine falcon, griffon vulture, red kite, mountain lizard, snow vole…

The cattle are at lower levels, although given that the wolf can travel a hundred kilometers a day looking for food, Ángel García Blanco believes that its reappearance poses a threat to the herd in the area. “In Villanueva de la Vera and Valverde de la Vera there is concern among farmers,” says the president of Asaja Extremadura, who demands from the Board “a decree that includes aid to farmers who lose animals due to attacks of this species.” “It is urgent that he do so, before news of attacks begins to be heard, because otherwise, it will be the ranchers who act,” says the agrarian leader.

In Extremadura it is listed as an endangered species, and its hunting involves a fine of 12,020 euros

In Extremadura, the wolf is listed as an endangered species – its hunting is sanctioned with 12,020 euros –, which forces the administration to have a recovery plan that, however, does not exist today. “As a result of the verification of its presence in the community -explains the Board-, the General Directorate of Sustainability has met with the Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge, to begin adopting the measures of the strategy for coexistence of the rural environment with the wolf and its conservation, and establish the bases of the future recovery plan».

This last document will be prepared from the end of the year, because until then the national census of the species will not be ready. When Castilla y León contributes its list, it will be known if there are specimens near the border between the provinces of Cáceres and Ávila. If yes, the existence could be certified not of an individual, which is the certainty today, but of a herd. And that would mean opening a new scenario.

Specimens sighted between Salamanca, Ávila and Portugal

The summits of Gredos have been the first place where the Board has certified the presence of the wolf, but there are other places in the region where the same could happen. The Ministry for the Ecological Transition and Sustainability explains that “there are recent observations of specimens in other areas close to the community.” Specifically, “in territories bordering Portugal, south of the Serra de Malcata and the provinces of Salamanca and Ávila.” “However,” the regional Executive clarifies, “we are not certain of the existence of herds shared with Ávila.” The last great herd from Extremadura had nine specimens, they lived in the Sierra de San Pedro, near Alburquerque, and their trail as a group was lost in 1987.


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