Questionnaire on Wolves in Croatia and Macedonia: Comparison of Public Attitudes

In “WOLVES IN EUROPE, C. Promberger and W. Schroder, eds., Oberammergau, Germany, 1992, pages 124-125

Reprinted with permission from Djuro Huber.

Djuro Huber, Sinisa Mitevski and Dragutin Kuhar
Biology Department, Veterinary Faculty, Heinzelova 55, 41000 Zagreb, Republic of Croatia

The doom of many wildlife species, and of large predators in particular, much depends on the attitude of the cohabitating human population. We attempted to find out the differences in attitude towards wolves (Canis lupus) due to the tradition, wolf population density, size of damage on lifestock, and other contributing factors in the two wolf-inhabited areas within the Dinara mountain range. One site we choose in south-central Croatia (Gorski kotar and Plitvice Lakes) and the other in north-eastern Macedonia. For aditional comparison we interviewed the inhabitants of Macedonian town Kumanovo, i.e. the people that live close to wolf habitat but are not directly influenced by his presence. The objectives of this study were to determine the factors influencing the human attitudes and the possible ways to change the negative atttide.

A total of 126 questionnaires were taken:

95 of people that cohabitate with wolves (53 in Croatia, 42 in Macedonia-Q1) and,

31 from nearby urban area (Kumanovo-Q2)(Fig. 1).

The quiz containing 12 groups of questions was completed by interview guided by a trained person. Chi-square test was used to determine the statisticaly significant differences.

Eightyfive percent (N=81) of wolf cohabitating interviewed people have seen the wolf in nature, and 14% (N=13) have even killed one or more, versus 35% (N=11) of urban people that have seen and 0% that killed a wolf (Fig. 2).

Therefore we used only the answers of wolf cohabitating people as relevant for the questions of wolf biology. In 60% (61 of 102) of sightings the wolf was seen alone, in 18% (N=18) in pair, and in 22 (N=23) in a pack (no significant difference betveen Croatia and Macedonia).

Estimating the wolf population trend in the last 20 years, 85% (N=45) of Croatian examinees consider the drop to the contrary of Macedonian (Q1) examinees where even 76% (N=31) consider increase and 0% the decrese of wolf population (P<0.01) (Fig. 3). Croatian and Macedonian examinees agree the roe deer is the most common (100%) wolf natural food. Following as the common natural food are red deer (75% Croatian vs. 38% Macedonian examinees), hare (71% vs. 33%), and wild boar (43% vs 14%, respectively)(Fig. 4).

As the most common domestic wolf prey the examined persons in Croatia rank: dogs (95%), sheep (73%), cattle (66%), goats (62%), and pigs (20%). The rank in the eyes of Macedonian examinees is: sheep (100%), pigs (83%), goats (40%), dogs (36%), and cattle (14%)(Fig. 5). Except for goats the answers differ at P<0.01 level. In comparison to other wild animal species all (100%) persons from Macedonia agree that the wolf causes by far the biggest damage, in contrast to examined persons in Croatia where bear (85%), wild boar (60%), and fox (58%) are bigger pests then wolf (Fig. 6).

All (100%) examinees from Macedonia and 85% examinees from Croatia want the bounty for the killed wolf to be maintained, but 81% and 74%, respectively, are against using poisons to kill wolves (Fig. 7). Resistence to poisons is only due to protect their domestic animals.

Marked difference was expressed between Macedonian – Q1 and Kumanovo – Q2 examinees considering the wolf role in nature.All 100% (N=42) Q1 consider the wolves as harmful species and the Macedonian wolf population too high. Only 26% (N=8) Q2 consider wolves harmful in nature and only 4% (N=1) the wolf population too high (for both p<0.01) (Fig. 8 and 9). None examinee in all questionnaires knows of a documented case of wolves attacking man in the last 20 years.

It can be concluded that the size of damage is the principle determinator of the attitude of local human population towards wolves. The importance of sheep hearding and their vulnerability to wolf predation in the way how they are presently kept in nort-eastern Macedonia makes the locals to wish the wolf exterminated as a species. On the contrary, the presently low population of wolves in Croatia, and the very few peoply living on extensive sheep hearding, places the wolf only to the fourth place as a pest animal.

The authors do not believe that the Macedonian wolf population actually grew in the last 20 years, but it could remained stable. Finding the sources to pay the damage done by wolves and helping locals to establish safer ways to keep their sheep could lead to the gradual change of attitude. In Croatia the attitide towards wolves is already favourable enough, though the source of funding for the damage compensations should be determined prior than the full legal protection could be expected.