Apex predator - Number of wolf packs almost double in Switzerland

Seven new births in the wild were also confirmed. (Zoo Zürich, Enzo Franchini)

Experts estimate that the country hosts between seven and nine wolf packs.

Within the space of a year, the wolf population has grown in Switzerland. According to the latest estimates of the Swiss Wolf Groupexternal link released on Sunday, at least seven wolf packs live in the country compared to four in the previous year. A pack is defined as a territorial wolf population of three or more socialised animals of both sexes.

The updated figures are from the biological year that runs from the beginning of May 2019 to the end of April 2020.

Assuming a minimum of seven wolf packs, it is estimated that there are now between 60 to 70 wolves in Switzerland.

The packs live in the cantons of Graubünden (Surselva, Obersaxen, Beverin), Valais (Val d'Anniviers, Val d'Entremont, Chablais) and Vaud (Col du Marchairuz). Solitary individuals are also present in the Bernese Oberland and Central Switzerland. In total, the number of packs could be as many as nine, according to the Swiss Wolf Group. The status of two groups, one in the Calanda massif in Graubünden and the other in the Ticino's Valle Morobbia, remains unclear.


Distribution of wolf packs in Switzerland [Rudel = pack, Einzeltiere = solitary animals, Status unklar - status uncertain] (Swiss Wolf Group)

Seven new births were also confirmed, according to the Swiss Wolf Group; three in Valais and three in Graubünden, and one in the canton of Vaud.

‘Problematic’ behaviour - Four young wolves in hunters’ sights in eastern Switzerland 

wolves in graubünden

The young wolves in Calanda wolfpack, as seen in 2014, Graubünden is home to the first wolfpack in Switzerland (Keystone/Graubünden cantonal hunting and fishing department)

A wolf protection group has condemned the decision to allow four young wolves in canton Graubünden to be shot, following attacks on farm animals in the region. 

The cantonal hunting and fishing department said on Fridayexternal link that there have been at least 15 attacks on goat herds – which were protected through special anti-wolf measures – which means the wolfpack’s behaviour can now be classified as “problematic”. 

The decision to target the young wolves comes in order to protect the parent animals. The hunting order is valid immediately and continues until March 31, 2020, and has been approved by the Federal Office for the Environment. 

The parent wolves had already attacked 59 sheep last year and the number is 40 so far this year, the head of Graubünden’s hunting and fishing department Adrian Arquint told Keystone-SDA. 

Arquint's department had confirmed the presence of a wolfpack on the Piz Beverin three months ago. Arquint said there are currently 30 wolves in canton Graubünden, with 17 born this year alone. 

Acceptance of wolves 

The Wolf Switzerland Group said it regretted the hunting order but accepted that the regulations were legal. 

In a statement it added that the regulations were not used enough to protect animals in the wolf-affected areas or to increase acceptance of wolves. The federal authorities’ guidelines for herd protection were so weak that wolves were still attacking animals, it said and called for better protection measures. 

In September parliament made it easier to hunt wolves, bears and ibexes, giving cantons more freedom to decide when an animal should be culled after consulting the Federal Office for the Environment. 

People and predators Wolves: welcome or worrying?

Should an area in south-western Switzerland be a predator-free zone? A local initiative wants to eliminate protected species like wolves.