What’s at stake in wolf conservation? It isn’t just the survival of the species but the survival of wilderness
“Beware the wolves of Chiantishire,” warned a recent Daily Mail headline. Tuscany’s “idyllic landscape of rolling fields and poplar-lined hills”, the article continued, which in the past “proved irresistible to the great, the good and the very rich”, have in recent months become “home to a savage predator – packs of marauding wolves which are growing increasingly brazen”. Politicians in Chianti-country, we are told, “have called on the government to take action. There are growing fears that the wolves could attack humans.”
Even by the Daily Mail’s usual standards of scaremongering, this scenario is pushing it. In spite of their mythically savage status, proven attacks on humans by wolves are very small in number: globally since 2000 there have only been around 20 confirmed attacks. By comparison, in an average year there are 26 deaths caused by domestic dogs in the United States alone. The risk to humans of an unprovoked attack by a wolf is minuscule in comparison, even taking into account the vastly greater number of dogs.