The wolf is a big walker, capable of travelling great distances and surviving in difficult environment with scarce resources.
Its dietary and behavioural versatility
allows it in case of need to adapt well in various types of natural environment: from the dunes to the prairies, from the man-made areas to the mountains. The wolf is present in the Arctic as in the deserts of the Arabian peninsula, in the forests of North America and in the Mongolian steppes.
In Italy the species is present at altitudes ranging from sea level to over 2000 m a.s.l. (6561.68 ft.)
The factors that determine the presence of the species are the availability and accessibility of trophic sorces and water and the presence of a dense forest cover necessary to create the conditions of tranquility and security for the delicate phase of reproduction.
When it can choose, the Wolf will prefer wooded areas where it will enjoy, not only a better opportunity of hunting its favourite preys, but also the presence of a vegetation cover.
The wolf is indeed an elusive animal,
who moves at night and rests during the day, but above all it is not keen on encountering human beings.
Many factors have been decisive in the spontaneous recovery of the wolf population in Italy starting from the end of the 70s of the last century.
First of all the legal protection of the species and the prohibition on the whole national territory of using poison bait led to a drastic reduction in killings, although poaching is still present today.
The establishment of a large number of Protected Natural Areas
has allowed the wolf to carry on its life cycle peacefully in wide territories. During the same period, numerous projects were launched that included the reintroduction of wild ungulates that are the wolf’s main preys, such as deer and roe deer and hunting operations that have led to the reconstitution of the Italian wild boar population, a species extinct in most of the peninsula in the first age of the last century.
Besides, many mountain and hilly areas traditionally inhabited by man were becoming in the same period depopulated, due to the migration of entire communities to the cities in search of work, thus leaving free space to the wolf.
In addition to environmental and regulatory factors, some intrinsic factors of the species that allowed the wolf to recover most of the lost area were fundamental:
the annual production of numerous litters, the great adaptability of the species to colonize different environments, food opportunism and the high dispersion capacity of young people, who make great distances in search of new territories and resources.
The legend of the “parachuted” Wolf
After the entry into force of the laws for the protection of the species in the mid-70s of last century,
the legend began to spread,
false but still in vogue, that the wolf’s growth rate was due to releases of specimens from the rest of Europe or even Canadians by researchers, environmentalists and staff of the Protected Areas;
it was even said that the wolves (as it has been said about vipers, wild boars and bears too), had been dropped by parachute!
The only reintroduction of wolves was carried out only in the Yellowstone American Park,
while in Italy mainly species of ungulates have been released starting from the 70s, both for hunting reasons, as in the case of the Boar, and for conservation reasons; examples include the reintroduction of the ibex on the Alpine arc, brought to the brink of extinction in the 20th century and today protected, and of the deer, roe and the Apennine chamois in several Protected Areas of the Apennines, the latter belonging to a subspecies that is present only in Italy.
Recently, following the expansion of the wild boar, the legend of the wolves released to counteract the increase of this ungulate was born. None of these legends is true: the wolves starting from the few remaining nuclei have naturally expanded their range following environmental changes and the legal protection accorded to them.