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Distribution

Switzerland

Since 1996 single wolf individuals have migrated naturally into Switzerland from Italy where the species was never extinct. Single individuals are found to date mainly in the Alps and Pre-Alps. Since the return of the wolf to Switzerland, certified records are known from 20 cantons: Argovia, Appenzell Outer-Rhodes, Appenzell Inner-Rhodes, Bern, Fribourg, Glarus, Grisons, Lucerne, Neuchâtel, Nidwald, Obwald, Schwyz, St. Gall, Thurgovia, Ticino, Uri, Valais, Vaud, Zoug and Zurich. The first packed was established in 2012 at the Calanda between the cantons of Grisons and St. Gall. Further packs were established in the cantons of Glarus, Grisons, Ticino, Valais and Vaud. Apart from the pack established in 2019 at the Marchairuz, the Jura mountains have so far only been sparsely recolonised.

Wolf records are also presented in the Monitoring Center.

Wolf records in Switzerland 2011-2019

Genetically identified wolves in Switzerland 2009-2020

Alps

Distribution of wolf packs (green), pairs (light green) and individuals (yellow) in the Alps 2015-2016. © WAG

The Wolf Alpine Group is an informal group of experts of wild animal research and management. It meets every two years in one of the Alpine countries for an exchange of experiences and to discuss and coordinate the monitoring of wolves. The discussions are then summarised and published in a report on the “Alpine Wolf Workshop”. The map below is from the report on the 8th meeting in 2018. The wolf has recolonised the Alps from the Italian Apennine mountains. Consequently, the recolonisation has progressed furthest in the south-western Alps. Sometimes, wolves from other populations are reaching the Alps, too. For example, the Lessini pack east of Lake Garda was established by a female (Julietta) from the south-western Alps and a male (Slavc) from the Dinaric mountains. The central and eastern Alps have so far only been sparsely recolonised.

Europe

Monitoring and management are traditionally organised by individual countries. However, all viable wolf populations expand over international boundaries. The network Large Carnivore Initiative for Europe, an IUCN/SSC specialist group, periodically collects the most recent data on the status, management and distribution of the carnivores in Europe.

Earlier surveys:

Wolf distribution in Europe

Distribution of the wolf in Europe based on a 10×10 km grid and data from 2012–2016. Dark green = permanent presence (presence confirmed in at least 3 of the 5 years, or reproduction confirmed within the last 3 years), light green = sporadic presence (presence confirmed in less than 3 of the 5 years), grey = presence without detailed information. No data was available from country areas coloured white. © LCIE

Global

The Grey Wolf was the cosmopolitan in the animal world: this species once had the largest distribution of any mammal. Originally, it was widespread over the entire northern hemisphere, from North America to Europa and Asia. During the last century however, it was exterminated from large parts of its original range. Since awareness of the importance of maintaining an intact ecosystem is increasing, the grey wolf has a chance to recover its population status and recolonize its original territory, including Switzerland. The species is highly adaptable. It does not only occur in forests, but also in the Arctic tundra, steppes, deserts and even in regions with urban sprawl.

Global wolf distribution

The wolf distribution covers the northern hemisphere. © IUCN Red List 2018

Taxonomy

The grey wolf Canis lupus belongs, like the red fox Vulpes vulpes, to the family Canidae. Within the Canidae, the grey wolf belongs to the genus Canis as for example the red wolf Canis rufus, the coyote Canis latrans and the golden jackal Canis aureus. The domestic dog Canis familiaris is a direct descendant of the grey wolf. Currently, seven Eurasian and five North American subspecies of the grey wolf can be distinguished, though the taxonomy remains controversial. Within the subspecies, there are large differences in size and appearance. European wolves belong to the subspecies Canis lupus lupus with the exception of the wolves on the Iberian peninsula which belong to a standalone subspecies – Canis lupus signatus. The wolves currently living in Switzerland originate from the Italian wolf population that also belongs to the subspecies Canis lupus lupus but is genetically clearly distinct from other European wolf populations. In the future, wolves may increasingly immigrate to Switzerland from other populations, i.e. the Dinarc, Carpathian and the Central European lowland populations.

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