The Italian Almanac

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The Italian Wolf is Back

The once-endangered Italian wolf has made a remarkable recovery and has come down from the central Italian mountains to be spotted on the outskirts of Florence. Wardens in the national park overlapping the regions of Tuscany and Emilia Romagna have been monitoring the movements of wolves for the past few winters and have found that there are at last five or six wolf packs in the park. "Since 2005, this animal has been present not only in the mountains but also in the foothills and even around the city," a park official said.

Evidence that the wolves have come closer to populated areas, the official added, "include attacks on livestock as well as the discovery of wolf carcasses, victims of poachers". The park's report on the wolf population in Italy was presented at the 'Wolf Week' conference in Cervarezza Terme, near Reggio Emilia. The high point of the conference was a seminar on the protection of the Italian wolf, also known in English as lupo, organized in collaboration with Rome's La Sapienza University.

The lupo is a subspecies of the Grey Wolf and despite its comeback it remains a threatened and protected species. DNA tests on the lupo along with other European wolves and wild dogs have shown that the Italian wolf is the purest. It has bred least with wild dogs. The lupo is now present all along Italy's central Apennine mountain chain as well as parts of the French and Swiss Alps.

Wolves were widespread in Italy until the 20th century, when they were nearly wiped out. The wolf population hit an all-time low in the early 1970s, when perhaps as few as 100 animals remained. Efforts to revive the wolf population began in the mid-1970s and in ten years the population more than doubled. It has continued to increase at an average annual rate of 7%.