The natural return of a great predator
The wolf (Canis lupus italicus), one of Europe's largest predators, had disappeared from the Alps at the beginning of the 20th century due to human persecution. But, around the end of the 1980s, some individuals from the Abbruzzo Apennines began to movenorth from central Italy , favoured by the abundance and variety of prey available and the increase in wooded areas. Thus, in December 1992, exactly 70 years after their disappearance, the first two wolves were officially observed and recognized in the French Maritime Alps.
From that moment the species began to repopulate spontaneously the south-western Alpine valleys. So it was not a reintroduction, as was the case, for example, with the ibex, but a natural recolonization due to the fact that the environmental conditions suitable for the natural return of this large predator had been recreated. Thanks to careful monitoring undertaken in the 1990s and continued (almost) uninterruptedly until 2018, we now know that all the valleys in the Park are home to small packs of wolves (5-6 animals).
The wolf is very elusive, it senses human presence at a great distance, it moves mainly at night and travels a lot, sometimes dozens of kilometres in a single night. It is almost impossible for a hiker to see these animals, it is less so to discover their tracks on the ground, especially in winter, on the snow: the footprints are very similar to those of a big dog and the excrements are full of hair and bone fragments.
The wolf is a gregarious species, living in small family packs with a strong hierarchy. They hunt in groups, according to complex and very efficient techniques.
Despite the laws and protective action, the wolf does not have an easy life: often due to deep-rooted, unfounded fears and sometimes for practical reasons of economic interest, this animal runs into a collision course with human beings, especially with shepherds, breeders and hunters, who see it as an antagonist. All this although in-depth studies have ascertained that the wolf's chosen preys are large wild herbivores, such as chamois, roe deer, deer and mouflon, whilst domestic livestock never exceeds 15% of its diet.
In order to better understand the way of life of this predator, to discover the different meanings attributed to its image by various peoples over time, it is possible to visit the two sections of the "Uomini e lupi" Fauna Centre, where it is also possible to observe some wolves living in the large eight-hectare enclosure.