Wolf beheaded in Spain amid row over sheep killings

Poachers in the northern Spanish region of Asturias have left the decapitated head of a wolf in a public swimming pool, the latest barbaric attack against a species that's constantly at risk in Spain.

Wolf beheaded in Spain amid row over sheep killings
Photo: Mark Chinnick/Flickr

Staff opening up the village swimming pool of Infiesto in Asturias on Sunday were shocked to find a wolf’s decapitated head and tail floating in the water. 

The macabre discovery occurred the morning after 500 farmers and shepherds from the northern province’s Cabrales region had met to vent their anger against the increasing number of livestock killings perpetrated by wolves.

Infiesto, where the animal’s severed head was found, is a historical village of 2,000 residents who have livestock as their main source of income.

For centuries Infiesto’s inhabitants have had wolves as their neighbours, living in the principality’s Picos de Europa mountain range.

Photo: Alex Dunham

Half a dozen environmental groups have demanded that the Asturian Government act now against the perpetrators of this latest wolf murder and that “the long arm of the law fall on poachers who roam freely around Asturias killing wolves like this.”

According to a 2017 study dubbed For the coexistence of man and wolf , between 500 and 650 wolves were killed in Spain last year.

And the way in which the majority of wolf murders are carried out appears to be barbaric.

According to Spanish daily 20 Minutos, conservationists working in the area have found dead wolves poisoned and hanging from traffic signs, bridges or even in supermarkets, displayed as vindictive hunting trophies.

Nobody has been held accountable yet for the animal’s beheading on Sunday nor for any other wolf killings, leading activists to believe that poachers are “being spoiled by the Asturian Government”, even though “they only seek the extermination of the wolf species”.

The Iberian wolf is a subspecies of grey wolf that inhabits the forest and plains of northern Portugal and northwestern Spain.

Although the current wolf population is larger than in the seventies (when the Iberian wolf was on the brink of extinction), the species is still very much at risk. 

“Iberian wolves find themselves in a very bad situation. Not only is the species not expanding throughout the Spanish territory, it’s also suffering a regression in the northwestern part of Spain due to brutal hunting practices,” wildlife biologist Ángel M. Sánchez told El País. 

“In Castilla-León hunters pay more than €4,500 at a public auction to kill a wolf, with the false excuse by local authorities that it will prevent poaching or reduce livestock killings.”

According to Spain's Environment Ministry, there are 300 wolf packs roaming the northwest of the country. 

Photo: Aardwolf6886/Flickr


Spain moves to ban wolf hunting and give species protected status

Spain has taken steps to award the Iberian wolf protected status which will mean a complete ban on hunting the species.

Spain moves to ban wolf hunting and give species protected status
Photo: Mark Chinnick/Flickr

The Committee of Spain’s Natural Patrimony – which includes representatives from each of Spain’s regional governments – voted to include the wolf (Canis Lupus) on the national list of protected species along with the Iberian Lynx and the Cantabrian Brown Bear.

It now has to be signed off by Environmental minister Teresa Ribera.

Farmers however were quick to condemn the move, arguing that a nationwide hunting ban would lead to more attacks on their livestock.

Hunting of the Iberian wolf is currently only allowed north of the Duero but those populations south of the river were already listed as a protected species.

Spain is home to an estimated 1,500-2,000 Iberian wolves, with 90 percent of the population found in the northern regions of Castilla y León, Cantabria, Asturias and Galicia.

But wolf populations have been detected even within the Madrid region in the sierra less than an hour’s drive from the capital.

Farmers Union UPA accused the government of igoing against the interests of farmers and insist that the number of attacks on livestock have grown alongside wolf conservation programmes.

“It is we livestock farmers who are in danger of extinction,” it said in a statement.  

Conservation group Ecologists in Action however, welcomed the new protection but urged authorities to work with farmers on ways to protect cattle without harming wolves.