From conflict to coexistence? Insights from multi-
disciplinary research into the relationships between
people, large carnivores and institutions.
This document has been prepared by the Istituto di Ecologia Applicata with the assistance of the
Norwegian Institute for Nature Research and with the contributions of the IUCN/SSC Large Carnivore
Initiative for Europe (chair: Luigi Boitani) under contract N°070307/2012/629085/SER/B3 from the
From conflict to coexistence: insights from multi-disciplinary research into the relationships
between people, large carnivores and institutions.
John D. C. Linnell
Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA), PO Box 5685 Sluppen, NO-7485 Trondheim,
NORWAY. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
This document has been prepared for the European Commission, however it reflects the views only
of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of
the information contained therein.
Reproduction is authorised provided the source is acknowledged
Front cover photo composition by Alessandro Montemaggiori
Table of contents
1 Introduction .......................................................................................................................................... 5
1.1 The return of the predators. ......................................................................................................... 5
1.2 The contract .................................................................................................................................. 5
2 Methods and basic rational .................................................................................................................. 6
3 Status and threats to large carnivore populations in Europe .............................................................. 7
3.1 Infrastructure ................................................................................................................................ 7
3.2 Disturbance ................................................................................................................................... 8
3.3 Small population issues ................................................................................................................. 8
3.4 Lack of tolerance ........................................................................................................................... 8
3.5 Institutional issues ......................................................................................................................... 8
3.6 Prey and forest management ........................................................................................................ 9
3.7 Context .......................................................................................................................................... 9
3.8 New threats. .................................................................................................................................. 9
4 Understanding the conflicts surrounding large carnivores .................................................................. 9
4.1 Developments in our understanding of conflict............................................................................ 9
4.2 General classification of conflict types and relevance for large carnivore conflicts in Europe ... 10
4.2.1 Conflicts about substance .................................................................................................... 10
4.2.2 Conflicts about knowledge and information ........................................................................ 12
4.2.3 Values and norms ................................................................................................................. 14
4.2.4 Procedure ............................................................................................................................. 17
4.2.5 Relationships ........................................................................................................................ 19
4.3 Conflicts in context - studies of attitudes .................................................................................... 19
4.4 Majorities and minorities ............................................................................................................ 20
5 Identification of stakeholders ............................................................................................................ 21
5.1 Who is a stakeholder in large carnivore conservation? .............................................................. 22
6 From conflict to coexistence .............................................................................................................. 25
6.1 What does coexistence look like? ............................................................................................... 26
6.2 Prevention, resolution and management of conflicts ................................................................. 27
7 Special challenges with respect to stakeholder engagement in the context of large carnivores ...... 28
7.1 Scale ............................................................................................................................................. 28
7.2 Intensity and diversity of conflicts .............................................................................................. 28
7.3 Symbolism and cultural values .................................................................................................... 28
7.4 Species differences ...................................................................................................................... 28
7.5 Trade-offs .................................................................................................................................... 28
8 Preventing the development of conflicts ........................................................................................... 29
9 Suggestions for concrete activities for stakeholder engagement and reduction of conflicts with large
carnivores .............................................................................................................................................. 30
9.1 Information .................................................................................................................................. 31
9.2 Technical working groups ............................................................................................................ 31
9.3 Outreach educational programs ................................................................................................. 32
9.4 Economic and practical assistance .............................................................................................. 32
9.5 Emergency teams ........................................................................................................................ 33
9.6 Economic instruments – compensation and incentives .............................................................. 34
9.7 Branding ...................................................................................................................................... 35
9.8 Joint activity ................................................................................................................................. 35
9.9 Study visits and experience-transfer ........................................................................................... 36
9.10 Structured decision making ....................................................................................................... 36
9.11 Contact forums .......................................................................................................................... 37
9.12 Institution building .................................................................................................................... 37
9.13 Hunting and lethal control of large carnivores.......................................................................... 37
9.14 Delegation of power to local levels ........................................................................................... 39
9.15 Developing inclusive visions for the European landscape ........................................................ 40
9.16 Participatory development of action plans ............................................................................... 41
9.17 Co-management. ....................................................................................................................... 42
10 Key elements of stakeholder engagement and public participation ............................................... 42
10.1 Advantages and disadvantages ................................................................................................. 42
10.2 Characteristics of a good process .............................................................................................. 43
10.3 Consensus vs consent ................................................................................................................ 43
10.4 When it doesn’t work ................................................................................................................ 44
11 Conclusions ....................................................................................................................................... 44
Acknowledgements: .............................................................................................................................. 45
Literature cited ...................................................................................................................................... 45
1.1 The return of the predators.
Biodiversity conservation is always a complex procedure in our modern and crowded world. The
existence of a range of international conventions and directives (e.g. Convention on Biological
Diversity, Bern Convention, Birds and Habitats Directives, Bonn Convention, CITES) testify to the
emergence of a widespread global commitment to conserve biodiversity. Although the overall
picture may often be pessimistic, there are some species groups which are doing relatively well in
some regions. It often comes as a surprise to people that the large carnivores (brown bear Ursus
arctos, Eurasian lynx Lynx lynx, wolf Canis lupus and wolverine Gulo gulo), often mistakenly regarded
as animals needing wilderness, are among the species that are generally holding their own, and even
expanding, across large parts of their former distributions in Europe (Kaczensky et al. 2013).
However, this apparent conservation success story has come at a price, as reflected in the wide
diversity of conflicts that are emerging surrounding them. This report aims to provide some guidance
into understanding these conflicts and exploring some potential avenues for preventing, reducing
and managing these conflicts.
1.2 The contract
This report is one of the outputs of contract number 070307/2012/629085/SER/B3 between the
Istituto di Ecologia Applicata and the European Commission’s DG Environment. As quoted from the
call for tenders from 2012: “The overall objective is to identify practical approaches to help ensure the
maintenance or achievement of the favourable conservation status of European large carnivores and
to securing their coexistence with humans by reducing conflicts. The large carnivore species for this
contract will be the brown bear, the wolf and the Eurasian lynx. The contractor's task will be to
support the European Commission in developing elements of an EU Large Carnivore Initiative for the
conservation and sustainable management of these species which were not the focus of the earlier
Commission guidance document. These elements could in particular help in defining the way forward
towards better cooperation of key stakeholders. The recognized successes and the lessons learnt from
earlier initiatives should be fully utilized, as well as the experience of other ongoing process (Bern
Convention, LCIE) will have to be drawn upon. The novel elements of the current exercise compared to
the earlier work will be to explore conservation conflict-resolution mechanisms applicable to human-
large carnivore conflicts and to identify 4-6 areas, involving different target species, where the
mechanisms may be tried and tested by stakeholders directly involved. This work should take account
of, and build on the results of previous work on conflict management and nature protection
commissioned by DG Environment.” Because of the fact that wolverines share habitats with lynx and
bears and have many overlapping issues we have chosen to also include a focus on them.
The specific objectives of this report is to fulfill Task 4 “To scope the relevance of conflict
resolution/minimization methodologies developed by social scientists and good practices that could
be applied to situations of human-large carnivore conflicts, including results of earlier work
commissioned by DG ENV”.
The contract also stipulated that the study be built on exploring options within the constraints
imposed by existing legal and policy frameworks. Therefore, the underlying premise is the goals for
large carnivore conservation as stated in the Habitats Directive and the Bern Convention.
2 Methods and basic rational
This review is based around three major sources of information. Firstly, databases such as the Web of
Science have been used to survey the peer-reviewed scientific literature dealing with issues such as
large carnivore conflicts, conflict resolution within environmental fields, especially those related to
biodiversity conflicts, protected area conflicts, forestry conflicts, and participatory processes where
there is a great deal of relevant experience. Secondly, a wide selection of the “grey” literature
including technical reports has been included by searching Google and Google Scholar and through
snowball sampling (Newing et al. 2011). Finally, recognizing that there is far more experience in
practical management that is not published, experience-based knowledge from researchers,
managers, stakeholders and practitioners who have worked with large carnivore and related conflict
issues in the field has been included. A special effort has been made to include the results from EU
funded projects. These include the following projects; HUNT, BIOFORUM, FRAP, GoverNat, EVE, and
GoFOR as well as the project “Conflict Management in the Natura 2000 Network” (Bouwman et al.
2010). In addition, the many LIFE projects conducted on large carnivores have contributed to the
body of experience (Salvatori 2013). Our study covers most of Europe, both inside and outside the
Our underlying model for exploring methods for preventing, managing or resolving conflicts
associated with large carnivores is that the methods must be chosen within specific contexts. There
are three elements that are crucial to consider. Firstly, is the conservation context of the various
large carnivore populations (Kaczensky et al. 2013). Clearly the size, conservation status and range of
threats facing a given population will be central in both setting the background and selecting
appropriate methods. From a conservation point of view it is desirable to focus on issues that
address the key threats. The size and status of the population will also impose limits on acceptable
responses. Secondly, is the exact nature of the conflicts. Conflicts are highly diverse and vary
enormously across Europe. It is therefore crucial to target measures to specific conflicts. Thirdly, is
the human environment. There are a wide range of stakeholders that can potentially be important
actors in large carnivore conflict and conservation issues. There is therefore a need to select the most
relevant stakeholders for a given context. Based on this rational the following sections shall briefly
summarize what we know about;
(1) The status and threats to large carnivore populations in Europe as of 2012.
(2) The present day knowledge of our understanding of large carnivore – human conflicts.
(3) A brief stakeholder analysis of who is who among the relevant actors in large carnivore
conservation and conflict.
(4) Building on this understanding of the situation the report goes on to outline a range of possible
mechanisms and instruments that may be useful for engaging with stakeholders and helping to
prevent, manage and / or resolve conflicts.
3 Status and threats to large carnivore populations in Europe
Large carnivores are currently found across a significant proportion of the European continent. For
wolf, lynx and bear we currently recognize ten functional population units for each species, while
wolverines are limited to two populations. Large carnivores occur in a great diversity of conservation
contexts in Europe, from the coasts of the Mediterranean in the south to the Barents’s Sea in the
north, in lowlands and mountains, in farmlands, forests and tundra. There are several very large and
robust populations that number in the thousands of animals, and some very small and highly
vulnerable populations that only have some tens of animals. Accordingly, IUCN threat assessments
for individual populations vary from “Least Concern” to “Critically Endangered”. Bears illustrate this
diversity well with four populations numbering from 1700 to 7000 individuals, three populations
numbering from 200 to 700 individuals, and three with less than 100 individuals. A similar diversity of
situation exists for lynx and wolf populations (Kaczensky et al. 2013).
The quality of monitoring systems varies dramatically across Europe. Some countries have state of
the art systems, however in several regions and countries the monitoring systems that are in place
are inadequate to draw firm conclusions about the size and trend of populations. Based on the data
available it appears that most large carnivore populations in Europe are stable or increasing. There
are some exceptions, however. The Sierra Morena wolf population in southern Spain is on the edge
of disappearing, bears in the population segment in central Austria appear to have become extinct,
and wolves in Finland have undergone a dramatic decline, although this seems to have stablised. The
situation for many of the reintroduced lynx populations in central Europe (Vosges, Jura, Alps, Dinaric
Mountains) also appears to have stagnated. Finally there are some small populations, such as Balkan
lynx, Apennine bears, Pyrenean bears that are still very small and isolated. Because many
populations cross multiple inter- and intra-national jurisdictional borders there can be a high degree
of variability in data quality from different parts of a population’s distribution (e.g. for brown bears in
the Dinaric-Pindos mountain range that span 9 countries, only two of which are currently in the EU).
Across this diversity of situations there is a similar diversity in the extent to which the populations are
believed to be threatened by different factors (Kaczensky et al. 2013). We can broadly group these
into several threat categories.
This includes issues related to landuse planning of technical infrastructure associated with transport
(e.g. road and rail), energy production (e.g. wind and hydro), energy distribution (e.g. power lines),
and recreation (e.g. ski-slopes). Infrastructure threatens large carnivore populations primarily
through its barrier effect by fragmenting previously continuous habitats and by increasing the risk of
individuals being killed in collisions (Kaczensky et al. 1996, 2003; Jędrzejewski et al. 2004;,
Niedziałkowska et al. 2006; Huck et al. 2010). Other effects include the direct loss of habitat and an
increase in human access and thereby disturbance. Infrastructure influences both the large and the
small populations and is an especially important issue in southern and eastern Europe where new
development is ongoing at a rapid rate (Jędrzejewski et al. 2009, Huck et al. 2011). Large carnivore
populations in Europe have very large scale spatial dynamics, with wolves for example frequently
moving over hundreds of kilometers across multiple countries (Linnell et al. 2005; Valière et al. 2003;
Wabakken et al. 2007). Therefore the impacts of infrastructure can be potentially felt over huge
areas as infrastructure may limit the dispersal of individuals and so its rescue effect on small and
isolated population segments.
Although all four large carnivore species are generally very tolerant of predictable human activities
the disturbance resulting from the presence of humans in carnivore habitats can have negative
impacts on carnivores by displacing them from preferred feeding or denning sites (Kaartinen et al.
2011; Naves et al. 2001, Theuerkauf et al. 2001). Bears seem to be most sensitive, and are especially
vulnerable in winter denning areas (Linnell et al. 2000). This is certainly one area where more
research is needed, especially as populations are being exposed to a variety of new forms of
disturbance (e.g. from new forms of recreation like ski slopes and off road vehicles and from new
infrastructure projects like roads, railways and wind farms) about which there is little experience.
3.3 Small population issues
Small populations are especially vulnerable to a range of issues that would not normally pose a
substantial threat to large populations. In small populations any mortality, whether deliberate (e.g.
poaching, poisoning or problem animal removal) or accidental (e.g. vehicle collisions, being caught
accidentally in snare or trap set for other species), can have disproportionally high effects on
population viability. Small populations are also highly vulnerable to chance (stochastic) events (e.g. a
local disease outbreaks, extreme weather events). The other issue that effects small populations is
inbreeding. High levels of inbreeding and reduced genetic variability have been documented in many
of the small populations and have been identified as a critical issue for several of them (Liberg et al.
2005; Liberg 2006).
3.4 Lack of tolerance
Large carnivores can be very controversial with certain elements of the rural communities with
whom they share the landscape. Although this varies widely across Europe, in many areas there is a
low tolerance for the presence of these species. The causes of this low tolerance are highly diverse
and very situation dependent (see section below on conflicts). Often it is the cumulative effect of
many minor issues that combine. The impact of this low tolerance can also vary from heated political
debate, to lobbying to undermine conservation goals, to illegal killing of carnivores (Forsberg &
Korsell 2005; Reljic et al. 2012). A lack of tolerance has been identified as representing a threat for
both large and small populations. Illegal killing is a chronic problem across Europe, and in some cases
has been shown to significantly slow population recovery (Liberg et al. 2012) and may in some cases
have partially reversed previous gains (Kaczensky et al. 2011; Jansson et al. 2012). Although the
extent of the lack of tolerance varies it appears to be a bigger issue in areas where the species return
(either via reintroduction or natural recolonisation) after long periods of absence and in areas where
protection is imposed on previously hunted populations.
3.5 Institutional issues
A wide range of institutional weaknesses have been identified as threats to large carnivores. These
weaknesses include a failure to include the results of natural and social science into management
plans, a low degree of public involvement and transparency, poor coordination between the regions
within federal states, and between countries, and the absence of robust population monitoring
systems. In some countries there may be no clearly identifiable responsible authorities and no
management plans. A lack of law enforcement, and poor functionality of compensation schemes are
also widespread issues. A final weakness concerns the often poor coordination between
management agencies and sectors such as transport and agriculture with the environment. These
issues influence both large and small populations on local, national and European scales. There is a
huge need to make progress with developing population level management plans that secure this
multi-jurisdictional and multi-sectorial coordination (Blanco 2012; Linnell et al. 2008).
3.6 Prey and forest management
In a few countries, especially in southern and southeastern Europe (e.g. Portugal, Albania, Bulgaria),
lynx and wolf conservation may be hampered by a low prey base resulting from poorly developed or
non-sustainable wildlife management practices for species like roe deer, red deer, wild boar and
chamois. Bears are more dependent on forest management practices, especially with respect to
trees that provide fruits, nuts and berries, or allow for a diverse understory that provides a variety of
food plants. Different forestry practices can have very different effects on bear food.
The extent to which any given species or population is subject to these, and other, threats varies
greatly across Europe. Both the intensity of a given threat and the range of threats vary. Most
populations are exposed to multiple threats. A key consideration is to consider the idea of
cumulative impacts where the impacts of multiple threats may act together to have greater impacts
than they would have in isolation. It is also important to realize that threats are highly dynamic in
time (both between seasons and years) and need to be constantly re-assessed.
3.8 New threats.
The interesting aspect with these new threat assessments is the increased awareness of social
(tolerance) and institutional issues as some of the dominant threats. With some few exceptions most
European large carnivore populations are stable or growing, so the most immediate priority is to
maintain and improve public acceptance (with a special focus on rural areas), address social conflicts,
and build stronger institutions for managing large carnivores.
4 Understanding the conflicts surrounding large carnivores
A central logical principle of conflict resolution is that there is a need to have a good understanding
of the nature of the specific conflicts that one is trying to resolve. Without this understanding it is
much harder to effectively design targeted prevention, mitigation or resolution actions. In the best
case such untargeted actions may have little impact, but in the worst case clumsy or untargeted
actions may actually increase conflict levels.
4.1 Developments in our understanding of conflict
During the last 20-30 years there has been an enormous amount of research conducted on large
carnivores in Europe and the rest of the world, focusing both on the species themselves and on their
interactions with humans. The majority of large carnivore research has been ecological in nature.
Recently there has been a refreshing increase in the extent to which a diversity of other disciplines
have begun studying large carnivores. This is both because they provide interesting case studies for
disciplinary orientated academic research and an as arena where their discipline can make a
contribution to real world social and conservation debates. The result is that we can now draw on
contributions from fields as diverse as ecology (including aspects like genetics, parasitology,
behaviour, community ecology, demography), veterinary science, economy, history, human-
dimensions, sociology, anthropology, folklore studies, psychology, philosophy, political science and
law. Between them, the contributions from this diversity of points of view have begun to give us a
comprehensive picture of the complexity of the relationships and interactions between people and
large carnivores. This has led to a dramatic development in our understanding of conflicts, forcing a
realization that they are highly complex and very context specific.
A major contribution of the social sciences has been to underline the fact that conflicts may be
deeply rooted and often rather indirect, involving many inter-related issues that may actually have
less to do with large carnivores themselves than has been previously realized. One central insight has
been to try and separate between the “impacts” that large carnivores have on human interests (e.g.
when a wolf kills a sheep) and the “conflicts” that are behind this where different groups of human
stakeholders have different motives, forms of knowledge, priorities, values, interests or agendas (e.g.
between conservationists who want the wolf to live in certain areas and sheep farmers who don’t)
(Bouwma et al. 2010a,b; Redpath et al. 2013; Skogen et al. 2013).
It is also important to appreciate that this broader understanding of conflicts not only embraces
those who experience something negative because of conservation actions that succeed (i.e. the
return of the wolf as experienced by a livestock producer); it also embraces those who experience a
negative result from the failure of conservation actions (i.e. the failure of wolves to recolonize from
the point of view of an environmentalist).
4.2 General classification of conflict types and relevance for large carnivore
conflicts in Europe
There have been many different attempts to classify the diversity of conflict types that have been
recognized associated with conservation in general and with large carnivores in particular. Among
the most useful classifications are those developed by Niemela et al. (2005) and Young et al. (2010)
which we have adapted here to represent five different conflict dimensions. Any given conflict (e.g.
the wolf that kills a sheep) is likely to contain elements along most of these dimensions, although the
relative strength of each dimension will vary hugely with context and situation.
4.2.1 Conflicts about substance
These conflicts concern “how things are”, including the material or economic components of the
conflict. To return to the wolf and the sheep example this concerns the economic loss of any sheep
killed by wolves. In a European context the conflicts with large carnivores that have been shown to
have a clear substance dimension include;
● Depredation on domestic livestock is one of the universal impacts that large carnivores have on
human interests all across Europe. The extent of depredation varies greatly with husbandry form and
with livestock species (Kaczensky 1999). Sheep and goats are most exposed, with depredation on
horses and cattle being less common. The impacts of depredation go beyond the numbers of animals
killed, as many are injured, and there is a widespread claim that the presence of predators also
influences behaviour of livestock. In places where large carnivores return after periods of absence,
husbandry methods need to be changed and adapted (often radically) which may require new and
additional tasks for the livestock breeders. However, generally only the technical means (e.g. electric
fences, livestock guarding dogs), but not the additional workload is acknowledge or supported. The
impacts also go beyond a simple economical loss: be it financially compensated or not, the loss is
also perceived as an indirect evidence for a lack of respect from the society (usually in favor of large
carnivores) towards the farmer’s job.
● Depredation on semi-domestic reindeer is a major source of conflict in the Nordic countries and
causes a real issue for Sami reindeer herders, for whom reindeer herding represents a major cultural
symbol and livelihood. Cumulative depredation rates from wolves, bears, lynx, wolverines and golden
eagles can be high, and reindeer constitute the only potential prey for these species in arctic areas
(Hobbs et al. 2012; Mattisson et al. 2011; Nieminen & Leppäluoto 1988). This creates a very
complicated situation as the persistence of species like lynx and wolverine at least requires that they
predate reindeer. There are almost no effective measures to prevent depredation on reindeer within
the context of the modern husbandry form.
● Destruction of beehives by bears trying to forage on honey and larvae is a widespread conflict
● Competition for shared quarry by hunters and carnivores is one of the components of the conflict
between hunters and large carnivores. The extent to which the competition is real or only perceived
varies widely with context, but carnivores can certainly lead to reduced hunting bags, especially in
marginal areas (Gervasi et al. 2012; Melis et al. 2009, 2010). Furthermore, hunters often claim that
the presence of predators also influences behaviour of wild ungulates, making hunting more time
consuming. Where game management has resulted in high concentrations of wild ungulates (e.g.
around feeding sites), large carnivores may alter distribution and/or have locally high predation
impacts. Furthermore the feed often used for supplementary feeding of wild ungulates may attract
large carnivores, particularly bears, which consume the food and scare away the ungulates.
● Killing of dogs by wolves is a highly variable phenomenon across Europe, and the behavioural and
environmental factors that explain why it becomes a problem in some areas but not others is far
from clear. Both hunting dogs and dogs kept close to houses and in villages can be targeted (Karlsson
& Jaxgård 2004; Kojola & Kuittinen 2002; Kojola et al. 2004; Sidorovich et al. 2003). Wherever it
occurs it can be a major source of conflict (Skogen et al. 2006). The often strong emotional bond
between a dog owner and his dog as well as the many years of training invested into a good hunting
dog make these losses difficult to compensate.
● Destruction of property by bears is highly variable, but it can include things as diverse as garbage
containers, cans of chainsaw oil, fish ponds, fruit trees, automatic feeders that deliver winter food for
wild ungulates and the associated food stores.
● Vehicle collisions have a two way impact. While they often cause injury or death for the large
carnivore, they may also cause substantial damage to vehicles, and may even endanger drivers and
● The danger of injury and death is so low as to defy quantification, although both bears and wolves
have been documented to attack, and even kill, people under special circumstances (Swenson et al.
1996, 1999). Despite the objective risks being low, the perception of this risk and fear is still
widespread in many areas, especially where wolves and bears recolonize after long periods of
absence. Wolves have the added dimension of being highly aggressive when infected with rabies
(Linnell et al. 2002, 2003). The perceived ability of wolves to spread parasites, for example
Echinococcus sp., has also become an issue of fear in some northern European countries (Romig et al.
● Landuse restrictions are often a part of protected area / Natura 2000 site management
(Grodzinska-Jurczak & Cent 2011;Hiedanpää 2002), and although it is not widespread to impose
these restrictions because of large carnivores, there are some examples of controversy surrounding
potential restrictions in landuse and permissible human activity. The potential to impose landuse
restrictions for large carnivore conservation outside protected areas is particularly controversial.
● Conflicts between different conservation goals may also occur. In several areas predation by
wolves and / or lynx has been implicated as an additional factor threatening endangered ungulate
populations, such as wild forest reindeer in Finland (Kojola et al. 2004) and some of the small
chamois populations in Italy and the Balkans. Furthermore, a large proportion of threatened
European habitats and their associated species are linked with systems where livestock grazing and
mowing are important to maintain an open landscape. To the extent that carnivore depredation on
livestock serves as a driver to decrease grazing they may lead to a decrease in the biological and
cultural values of these traditional / cultural landscapes (Macdonald et al. 2000). Another issue can
also be the conflict between conserving large carnivores and the genetic diversity represented by
rare livestock breeds (Hall & Bradley 1995). Rare breeds tend to be associated with small scale
production in marginal areas, exactly the areas where large carnivores often have the greatest
4.2.2 Conflicts about knowledge and information
These are conflicts over “how things are perceived” by the different stakeholders. Certainly some
parts of this conflict dimension are due to a simple lack of information and knowledge about a
certain topic. The progress of scientific research has been rapid and it takes a long time before new
scientific knowledge becomes general knowledge (information deficit). Likewise, international,
national and regional laws and policies have changed dramatically within the last few decades and
there is in general rather poor knowledge about governance among many segments of society. There
is also the challenge of communicating the local experience of living with large carnivores to other
stakeholders at larger spatial scales. Europe is also a diverse place, and there is not always a good
mutual understanding of how different things are in different areas.
However deeper issues are also touched upon. Knowledge is a complex topic as different people will
build their knowledge in different ways. While scientists may construct their knowledge through field
studies or by reading the works of many other scientists, lay people often build their knowledge
through a compilation of personal and local experience, or the experience of personal acquaintances.
While scientific knowledge tends to disfavor the individual observation in favor of means and trends,
lay knowledge will to a far greater degree focus on the accumulation of anecdotes on which
individual experience is based. In the absence of direct experience based knowledge, myths and
other culturally transmitted forms of knowledge will appear (Lescureux & Linnell 2010, Lescureux et
al. 2011). Scientific knowledge is often based on principles and generalization to areas beyond where
it was produced, whereas lay knowledge is usually acquired in a specific place. Because knowledge is
a source of power, with management agencies often giving greater weight to scientific knowledge,
conflicts over whose knowledge counts the most often become entangled in struggles for power
(Skogen et al. 2013). Large and charismatic species like large carnivores are also species where many
people will feel that they have valid knowledge. Following our wolf example, knowledge conflicts
might include disagreements about how many sheep wolves kill, about how many wolves exist,
about how wolves came to be living in the area, and about the relative value that should be attached
to the advice of external scientific experts versus local people.
The legitimacy and value of a diversity of knowledge forms, (scientific knowledge, local, lay and
traditional knowledge, citizen science) has been widely recognized within the context of most major
international conservation agreements during the last 20 years, however, there remain many
practical obstacles to integrating diverse knowledge systems and building on the relative strengths of
In a European context the conflicts with large carnivores that have been shown to have a clear
knowledge and information dimension include:
● The status of large carnivores is diverse in Europe, although public perceptions of the numbers,
densities and trends of the populations vary widely. There is a need to communicate both how large
and robust some populations are, and how small and endangered other populations are (Kaczensky
et al. 2013).
● The extent to which the modern European landscape provides potentially suitable habitat for large
carnivores is often underappreciated (Boitani et al. 1999; Corsi et al. 1998, 1999; Huck et al. 2010;
Jędrzejewski et al. 2008; Schadt et al. 2002; Wiegand et al. 2004). All research shows that the
modern, highly modified, cultural landscape has the capacity to provide habitat for large populations
of large carnivores over very large areas, although the public often has the perception that these
species require wilderness.
● The extent to which wolves and bears pose a risk to human safety is often contested. A great deal
of research from examining historical archives and from modern day forensics, veterinary and
medical research has produced many new insights into the issue that are not yet widely known by
the public. This mainly concerns knowledge of the historical extent of the problem and the
circumstances with which man-killing is associated (Alleau 2011; Linnell et al. 2002; Moriceau 2007;
Swenson et al. 1996).
● The extent of depredation of large carnivores on livestock is often a source of debate, being either
greatly exaggerated or totally down-played by various actors. The impact of other mechanisms such
as density and climate to cause mortality is also contested, as is the extent to which predator
mortality is compensatory or adaptive (Tveraa et al. 2003, 2007). The functionality of various
mitigation measures is also often contested when they are introduced, or reintroduced, into areas
that have not had to use them before.
● The impacts that large carnivores have on hunting practices and hunting bags is also hotly
debated (Melis et al. 2010). Although a great deal of research conducted in recent years is now
available and needs to be disseminated, more research is needed to document the impact of large
carnivores on large ungulates numbers, behaviour and distribution as well as efficiency of human
hunting under the various hunting management regimes throughout Europe.
● The impact of targeted culling or harvest of large carnivores is also much debated. This both
concerns the ability of harvest to be regulated and monitored (Linnell et al. 2010), and about the
direct and indirect impacts on demographics, social behaviour and ecological function (e.g. Brainerd
et al. 2008; Swenson et al. 1997; Swenson 1999, 2003).
● The ecological role of large carnivores has become a topic of great interest to researchers and
conservationists with recent research indicating that they can have cause changes on community
structure among multiple trophic levels through cascades (Ray et al. 2005; Terborgh & Estes 2010 –
but see also Mech 2012). The extent to which the results obtained from North American protected
areas can be transferred to the multi-use landscapes of Europe remains unclear because of the
different ecological and social conditions (Linnell et al. 2005, Jedrzejewska & Jedrzejewski 2005)
however the topic is becoming increasingly discussed in Europe with the emergence of the
"rewilding" and "wilderness" discussions in recent years.
● The role of different management levels in setting and influencing legislation is often
misunderstood, and there is a clear need to communicate information about European governance
structures to many stakeholders, and also to inform them about state responsibilities regarding their
own use of subsidiarity and derogation principles. Some of the stakeholders who are impacted by
large carnivores are marginalized, and as we have seen a part of the conflict is about perceptions of
disempowerment, making it extra important to how the formal power structures work.
● Misinformation. It is important to note that the deliberate spreading of rumours and
misinformation has become a central part of the politics of large carnivore conservation in Europe
today. For example, rumours that exaggerate (or downplay) the risks that wolves pose to human
safety, or about how wolves have been secretly and illegally reintroduced (as opposed to have
recolonized an area naturally) are widespread. These “demonic rumours” are not simply due to a lack
of information, but are rather due to complex social process where the misinformation is used as a
key weapon in a struggle for power and legitimacy (Blanco & Cortes 2002; Skogen & Krange 2003).
4.2.3 Values and norms
These are conflicts about the different things that people “believe to be good or bad, or right or
wrong”. This can touch on some fundamental issues and produce intense social conflicts, including in
connection to large carnivore conservation. This is because the carnivores themselves often trigger
strong direct emotions, ranging from extreme love, admiration and respect to fear and hatred. Some
values and norms are slow to change in society, so it is important to remember that the modern
biodiversity agenda is relatively recent. There are people living today who grew up in a world where
they were paid by the state through bounties to exterminate these species “in the name of
progress”, whereas now they would be jailed for doing the same thing. Likewise, some rural people
grew up in a world where these species were valued game species, whereas now they are strictly
protected. Others grew up without them, but now are being asked to live with them, and yet others
live without them, but want to know they are there and on occasion experience them. This more
than anything else illustrates the dramatic U-turn that society has taken with respect to large
carnivores and at least goes part of the way in explaining why there are so many contrasting
normative positions concerning these species.
Some people appear to believe that conserving these species in our modern landscape is simply
“wrong”, while others believe that it is “right”. This is also linked to perceptions of carnivores being
“useful” as opposed to “useless”. This also touches on another major moral dichotomy that exists
between stakeholders. For many people with a traditional rural background there is no opposition
between concepts of “using nature” and “conserving nature”. In fact it is frequently argued that
nature can only be “conserved through being used”. The assumption behind this view is that the
types of (or elements within) nature that are valued as deserving of conservation are dependent on
human activity, such as meadows and pastures. This view also underlines the fact that human
interactions with nature are also often regarded as being of conservation value from a social and
heritage point of view (Campbell 2005). The opposing view, most dramatically presented in the
emerging European wilderness discourse, puts “using nature” and “conserving nature” into
opposition and would like to see a widespread return of ecological processes where humans are not
the dominant actor. This diversity in ways that a landscape can be viewed can be illustrated with an
example from the Lapponia World Heritage Site in northern Sweden which for many outsiders is
regarded as one of Europe’s last wilderness, but to the indigenous Sami it is both a production
landscape and a cultural heritage landscape (Nilsson-Dahlström 2003).
These diverse views reflect the extent to which people see humans as a part of nature versus
something apart from nature, as interactive agents within natural processes or as observers, and to
the extent that they believe that nature needs to be managed as opposed to left alone (Campbell
2005). These touch on very fundamental and deeply rooted perspectives and values. It is however
important to point out that there is a wide diversity of views within and between different
stakeholder groups and many moderate and balanced views also exist that recognise the existence of
nuances between extreme points of view and the benefits and needs for compromise. Research
frequently shows the existence of a wide platform of common ground concerning environmental and
The other aspect which is important to remember is that large carnivores have become symbolic of
many other wider issues with which they are only partly connected (Skogen & Krange 2003; Skogen
et al. 2013). Rural areas are undergoing rapid changes which are often perceived as threatening to
rural people. On one hand rural depopulation threatens the viability of many communities, while on
the other hand the influx of newcomers to conservative rural areas is perceived as a threat to
traditional lifestyles. The emergence of a conservation agenda for large carnivore, and their resulting
return to areas from which they were absent (or the strict protection of once hunted populations),
has happened at the same time as these threats have emerged. As a result some rural people have
focused on the carnivores as symbols of the wider changes to their landscapes and communities. This
has led to conflicts centering on species like wolves, even though the real issues affecting the viability
of rural communities are largely independent of them. Examples of such symbolic conflicts include:
● The changing physical landscape with shrub encroachment and afforestation of previously grazed
open areas has become highly symbolic of the changes in the way the landscape is used, especially
linked to the decline of extensive grazing and hay cutting. Associated with this visual change is also
the loss of many species that benefited from these modified habitats. The return of large carnivores
has occurred at the same time as the closing of these landscapes began to become visible, leading
many to blame the carnivores for the changes in landuse. Cultural landscapes are now recognized as
important symbols of, and monuments to, European cultural heritage. The ways that people interact
with the landscape are as important as the physical structure of the landscape. Perceptions of
heritage are, however, generation-dependent; the decision-makers of current days have grown up
surrounded by open landscapes from extensive grazing, which were not used in the same way a
hundred years ago. Future generations of decision-makers may not have the same backgrounds, so
that the image of desired landscapes will constantly change.
● With this change in the visual appearance and structure of landscape has come a shift in the way
people view the purpose of the landscape. The shift has gone from the traditional production
landscapes with their focus on producing agricultural products, to a combination of recreation
landscapes and conservation landscapes where the purpose is people’s pleasure and species survival
respectively. Even though many of these elements are compatible, and even dependent, on each
other, there is great symbolism in the primary view of the landscape (Skuland & Skogen 2009).
● The decline of traditional rural economic activities has been ongoing for many decades in Europe,
although at different rates and in different periods in different regions. Many villages have become
totally abandoned in marginal areas, especially in the mountains.
● The involvement of outsiders and newcomers in rural affairs has been controversial in rural areas
that are closer to urban centers. So while this reverse migration has maintained the economic
viability of some rural areas, it has changed their social fabric (Moore 1994).
● The shift from traditional lifestyles to modern lifestyles has been dramatic in recent decades and
is at the heart of many political controversies as modernity clashes with conservative views. The
tension between rural and urban lifestyles is also intertwined into this complex (Krange & Skogen
● The threats facing the survival of indigenous people’s lifestyles in a modern world are very
diverse and often beyond the control of local people. Issues as diverse as transport and energy
infrastructure, mining, recreation and forestry are all having impacts on reindeer herding (Jernsletten
& Klokhov 2003). However, large carnivores can be very potent and proximate symbols of these
wider issues, as well as a significant cause of reindeer mortality (Hobbs et al. 2012; Mattisson et al.
2011; Nieminen & Leppäluoto 1988).
● The lack of respect for local knowledge compared to external scientific knowledge can become a
central conflict as discussed above.
● Large carnivores are often viewed by environmentalists as a test case of society’s commitment to
biodiversity conservation. These are very charismatic species that potentially can play important
roles within ecological systems. Many people and organisations actively support their conservation
both because of their attachment of value to the species, and because there conservation symbolises
a move towards a new way of valuing biodiversity at large and reshaping the way that humans and
non-humans share space on the planet.
These symbolic issues may have unexpected effects. In some cases the opposition to large carnivores
may serve as a factor to bring a sense of unity and common purpose to rural communities (Sjölander-
Lindqvist 2009). In other cases the symbolism of conflict may be utilized by alliances of interests
groups to fight for wider political goals (Benhammou & Mermet 2003; Skogen & Krange 2003).
These conflicts concern disagreement or dissatisfaction with the ”way things are done”. This is
triggered by the establishment of legislation or administrative procedures and reflects the relative
distribution of power among actors and the perception of justice. Various actors clearly disagree
with issues related to the content of conservation legislation, the process by which it was developed
or the way it is interpreted and implemented (or not implemented). While it is obvious that not all
actors will ever like or agree with all legislation and procedures, it is important that they are
perceived as being legitimate. This places great demands on ensuring that the process of developing
procedures is conducted in an open and transparent manner, and that implementation is ensured in
a logical and consistent manner with the understanding of all stakeholders (see the Aarhus
Convention). European conservation legislation and conservation procedures have been
documented as being highly controversial in some settings among some stakeholder groups (e.g.
Grozinska-Jurczak & Cent 2011; Hiedenpää 2002, 2011). This controversy is both about the substance
of the new procedures (e.g. species protection and landuse restrictions) and the fact that it comes
from far away, from a level that many rural people feel powerless to influence. Furthermore, a failure
to recognise the legitimacy of the procedures lies behind the justification of engaging in illegal acts
such as poaching of large carnivores. The widespread failure of law enforcement to invest resources
in investigating or prosecuting such crimes further undermines the popular perception of legitimacy.
The large carnivore related conflicts which have been identified as controversial are related to the
● The degree of protection afforded to large carnivores in large populations is highly controversial.
The central issue concerns to what extent protection (from killing) is necessary as a goal to achieve
conservation. Hunting large carnivores has a long tradition in many countries, and under various
contexts is regarded as being an effective means to (1) give large carnivores a positive image as a
valuable resource, (2) enable wildlife managers to regulate the size and distribution of the
populations and remove individuals with problematic behaviour, and (3) increase acceptance among
rural people (Liukkonen et al. 2009; Majic et al. 2011). In many countries some stakeholders have the
perception that modern legislation is over-protecting large carnivores. The claim is often made that
there is confusion between the goals of conservation and the means used to achieve these goals,
with hunters for example fearing that strict protection is being viewed as a goal in itself. Hunters also
express the fear that a ban on hunting the carnivores will just be the start of a process that will lead
to the protection of other game species. The introduction of protection has the potential to
transform an interactive, technical and merely competitive relationship (carnivore impacts balanced
with technical measures and lethal control) into a social and political conflict, and also creates a
sense of disempowerment among some stakeholders. However, the killing of carnivores, especially in
smaller populations, is also often highly controversial with other stakeholders, both because of
concerns over the impact of killing and from the point of view of a moral objection.
● The failure to take law enforcement with respect to illegal killing seriously is viewed as a major
problem by many (Forsberg & Korsell 2005). Illegal killing has been shown to be widespread and to
have a significant population impact in some situations, but very few cases are ever prosecuted
(Caniglia et al. 2010). Failing to enforce the laws on illegal killing can slow down the recovery rate of
small carnivore populations and sometimes even threaten their persistence ,and greatly diminishes
the public’s perception of the legitimacy of the legislation and of the authorities commitment to
large carnivore conservation (Andrén et al. 2006; Bell et al. 2007; Dahle 2000; Huber et al. 2002;
Kaczensky et al. 2011; Liberg et al. 2012).
● The extent to which large carnivores are used to justify landuse restrictions, both inside and
outside the Natura 2000 network, is a potential controversy, where European level institutions often
get blamed for local level decisions. The management of Natura 2000 sites is purely a national level
issue although the European Commission has set in place a process for exchanging experiences. As
discussed above there is still a great deal of uncertainty as to which landuses threaten large
carnivores, although they are generally tolerant of many forms of traditional landuse. Small carnivore
populations that are vulnerable to many threats may be more sensitive than larger populations and
may therefore benefit more from habitat management.
● There is a general lack of understanding of which management authority rests with which level of
governance. European governance is complex, with multiple levels existing from European, to
national, regional and municipal. Different levels have different authority over different policy areas.
There is often a great deal of confusion among stakeholders over which level of governance is
actually responsible for which decisions and which actions.
● Modern ideas of participatory governance mandate a high degree of public and stakeholder
engagement in many policy areas. Conflicts can arise if decision making processes are regarded as
being too top-down and failing to engage in sufficient consultation, dialogue or participation with
local communities or stakeholder groups (Maser & Pollio 2012; Sidaway 2005). On the other hand,
insufficient conservation actions may result from a too much bottom-up approach (Keulartz 2009).
An appropriate balance has to be defined to achieve both social acceptance (that needs bottom up
approaches) and implementing of efficient conservation policies (that needs some top-down
● Issues of scale are very controversial. In addition to the formal laws and institutions that regulate
human activity there are a range of local informal institutions, or customs, that govern how people
act. There is often a perception among local communities, and even entire countries, that legislation
produced at one scale is not appropriate at the local scale to which it is applied, that it does not
respect the informal institutions that they respect, and that there is not enough flexibility in choice of
means to account for local situations. However, when considering the intrinsic constraints imposed
by large carnivore ecology it is apparent that large carnivores need to have their management
coordinated over large areas that correspond to biological populations (Linnell et al. 2008).
● Among environmentalists there is a perception that many authorities are not fulfilling their
obligations under conservation legislation. This is particularly obvious in countries where large
carnivores are recovering after long periods of absence. This conflict of obligation is also felt by Sami
reindeer herders who feel that the way that carnivore conservation legislation is enacted conflicts
with other international agreements on indigenous people’s rights. Similar issues appear when small
scale farmers and livestock breeders are on one hand encouraged by European agricultural subsidies,
but encounter difficulties imposed by wolf conservation which is driven by EU environmental policies
This conflict dimension concerns “how people behave “ and is really focused on the behaviour of
individual people or organisations in their interaction with each other. Many groups perceive that
they are not treated with sufficient respect by other groups. It is an unavoidable fact that even in the
most professional organisations the outcome of a great deal of interactions depends on individual
personality and social skills. Trust is a key factor in influencing the outcome of any interaction
between stakeholders. Trust takes time and stability to build, but can easily be lost. The historical
relationship between individuals and organisations is also important. One unfortunate tendency is
for individuals within organisations engaged in a conflict to tend to adopt ever more polarized
positions in an effort to raise their status within an organisation. This process of schismogensis (Brox
2000) can in principle explain a great deal of the escalation that occurs. In the later sections of this
report on stakeholder engagement and participatory processes it is made clear that central elements
of the processes, and indeed many of the potential actions, are designed to explicitly help build
better relationships between individuals and organisations.
4.3 Conflicts in context - studies of attitudes
Our understanding of the details and mechanisms of conflicts have emerged from qualitative studies
(the results of which are described above) that tend to use in depth interviews or focus group
discussions to study a relatively small sample of individuals in depth. However, more quantitative
methods are suitable for surveying how widespread these views are among larger samples, be it
within a stakeholder group or across a representative sample of the general public. Clearly a
combination of methodological approaches is crucial in such conflict studies as it is important for
decision makers to both understand the real complexity of issues and the extent to which the wider
public share the different views. It is also possible to tease apart factors affecting attitudes with large
sample sizes and statistical methods. There is also an emerging foundation of theory which may be
useful in improving our ability to predict haw attitudes will vary.
There have been many quantitative surveys of the attitudes of the public and of key stakeholder
groups with respect to large carnivores. They have been conducted in countries as diverse as Norway
(Røskaft et al. 2007), Sweden (Ericsson & Heberlein 2003), Finland (Liukkonen et al. 2009), Latvia
(Andersone & Ozolins 2004), Italy (Glikman et al. 2010), Austria (Wechselberger & Leizinger 2005),
Germany (Kaczensky 2006), Slovenia (Kaczensky et al. 2004), Croatia (Majic & Bath 2010; Majic et al.
2011), Slovakia (Wechselberger et al. 2006), Poland (Bath et al. 2008; Olszanska 2012), Switzerland
(Hunziker et al. 2001), and France (Bath 2001). These surveys show that a clear majority of both rural
and urban publics support the underlying principle of large carnivore conservation in Europe. A wide
range of factors influence attitudes under different contexts. However, factors such as age, gender,
occupation, political orientation, and general values towards nature have all been shown to influence
attitudes in at least some studies (e.g. Skogen & Thrane 2008). Unsurprisingly, livestock owners and
hunters often have more negative attitudes than others because they expect direct negative impacts
of large carnivores on their livelihoods and activities (Kaltenborn et al. 1999; Andersone and Ozolinš,
2004; Wechselberger et al., 2005; Bisi et al. 2007; Nilsen et al., 2007; Bath et al.2008; Liukkonen et al.
2009). Being male, having more education, and being young tend to be associated with more
positive attitudes (Andersone & Ozolins 2004; Balciauskiene & Balciauskas 2001; Kleiven et al. 2004;
Røskaft et al. 2007), although these trends are not universal (Bath 2009; Kaczensky et al. 2004).
Experience of living close to carnivores is noteworthy as it seems to operate in different directions in
different settings; in some cases experience leads to more positive attitudes, whereas in other cases
it leads to more negative attitudes (Ericsson & Heberlein 2003; Heberlein & Ericsson 2008). It should
be noted that not insignificant proportions of respondents mention having some level of fear
towards large carnivore presence (Røskaft et al. 2003), although it does not influence the overall
clear support for their conservation. The importance of having a sense of control over situations
emerges as a common factor in supporting more positive attitudes (e.g. Bisi et al. 2007; Bjerke et al.
2000; Liukkonen et al. 2009). Also the perception of how much damage is caused emerges as a
relevant factor in studies (e.g. Andersone & Ozolins 2004). Attitudes have also been shown to change
over time in both directions (Ericsson & Heberlein 2003; Majic & Bath 2010; Majic et al. 2011). It
should also be noted that in studies which have looked at multiple species in the same survey, wolves
emerge as being associated with less positive attitudes (Andersone & Ozolins 2004; Kleiven et al.
2004; Røskaft et al. 2007; Wechselberger et al. 2006). A good summary of these studies comes from
the recent review of Trajce (2010); "In summary, the general findings of human dimensions research
in Europe so far show that the majority of human populations are favour large carnivore conservation
and have positive attitudes towards them. However, it is usually the case that the support for large
carnivores comes from a majority that is not directly affected by the damages that carnivores cause
(e.g.. urban population) and the costs for having carnivores in the landscape are carried by a small
minority of the population (farmers, livestock breeders, hunters). This calls for careful considerations
and the need for broad compromises when shaping conservation and management strategies for
large predators. Public attitudes towards carnivores are unambiguously complex and are linked with
various local and individual attributes such as place of habitation, age, education, gender, proximity
to large carnivore populations, and species of carnivore concerned and might vary considerably
through time. Hence, human dimensions studies often suggest that conservation and management
strategies for carnivores should be defined on a species by species and case by case approach,
according to the existing particulars in place". Although the main point is one of complexity, we now
have a very well developed tool-kit to explore these issues within different settings and to monitor
how they change over time.
4.4 Majorities and minorities
This principle support for large carnivore conservation among the general public is also often found
in rural areas and among many of the stakeholder groups who are most negatively impacted by large
carnivores, although this support may well be conditional on the way large carnivores are managed,
by the forms of conflicts that they cause, and by their numbers (e.g. Tangeland et al. 2010). The
implication is that it is a minority of the public who perceive the presence of large carnivores as being
negative or conflictful, and a minority who experience the negative impacts that their presence
causes. A lot of the research described in the previous sections has been focused on understanding
and articulating the views of these minorities. Because these minorities are hard to detect in general
quantitative surveys social scientists have mainly used qualitative methods to access these groups.
Such a situation of majority support for conservation with negative impacts experienced by a
minority creates a democratic dilemma as it concerns the way that the interests of majorities and
minorities balance their respective interests (Arblaster 2002). It also explains why issues of perceived
power and influence are so central to the understandings of the social and political conflicts with
which large carnivores are so often associated. It is important to note though that perceptions of
damage caused by large carnivores to other stakeholders frequently emerges as an issue in
representative surveys, implying that the general public is sensitive to the impacts that carnivores
have on specific groups. It is also crucial to understand that those who experience the most negative
impacts of large carnivores are those with economic interests and livelihoods that are impacted and
who often have formal property rights or resource use rights that are impacted.
5 Identification of stakeholders
One of the main trends of recent decades within environmental management (including coastal
zone, forestry, wildlife, biodiversity and fisheries management) has been the recognition of the
diversity of stakeholders who have a legitimate say in the way resources are managed. This
broadening of the constituency has paralleled the development in thinking among ecologists of the
need to go from single species to ecosystem level management, and to move from local to wider
spatial scales of consideration. The result is that there is now an understanding of the need to involve
a wide range of actors that often operate on a variety of spatial scales in the coordinated
management of biodiversity and natural resources. These duel motivations are currently enshrined in
European policy, for example through the EU’s ratification of the Aarhus Convention (Convention on
Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental
Matters). The motivation for many of the processes that nowadays seek to engage with stakeholders
within the field of conservation conflicts aim to improve both conservation outcomes and social /
political interactions. It is important that stakeholder processes are informed by an understanding of
mutual interests, conflicts and the threats which the species or habitats in question are exposed to
(Bouwma et al. 2010a,b; Chase et al. 2000; Maser & Pollio 2012; Reed 2008; Sidaway 2005).
It is therefore very important to define the appropriate range of stakeholders in any process. In the
short term this may initially lead to an increase in conflict with some traditional stakeholder groups
who may be uncomfortable with these “outsiders” being involved in “their” issue. However, as we
recognise that social conflicts between different groups of actors lie at the heart of many
conservation conflicts it is essential that the most relevant actors are present. One cannot call a
process participatory or engage in conflict resolution if some important actors are not invited into
the process. That being said, the exact range of stakeholders with whom engagement is necessary
will vary from case to case. In some situations where very technical issues are being discussed it may
be enough with a few, however, in other cases that touch on wide ranging principle issues the list
may be very long indeed.
Stakeholder processes should ideally involve (1) those who are influenced by large carnivores, (2)
those who influence large carnivores, and (3) those who have an interest in large carnivores. While
many stakeholders may fall into two or three of these categories, there are many who only fall into
only one. For example, landuse planners or road construction engineers may not realize it, but they
are key stakeholders in large carnivore conservation from the perspective that their activities can
have a dramatic impact on these species habitat.
Stakeholders can be organized into three categories based on their spatial arrangement and interest
in the issue. Primary stakeholders are local and have a direct economic or livelihood stake in the
issue. Secondary stakeholders live in the same area as the issue of concern, but without the
economic or livelihood connection. Tertiary stakeholders occur at a larger spatial scale and include
national publics and national authorities. Some authors also explicitly mention the need to consider
future generations as stakeholders, especially in issues concerning sustainability discussions (Maser
& Pollio 2012).
5.1 Who is a stakeholder in large carnivore conservation?
Based on our constantly maturing understanding of conflicts associated with large carnivores and the
threats to their survival it is possible to identify the following stakeholders as being central. Because
different countries have different patterns of land management and different social-economic
situations these categories of stakeholder may vary in the exclusivity. For example, in some countries
some landowners may be foresters, farmers and hunters at the same time on their own property,
whereas in other countries these activities may be completely separated. The legal status of species
according to the landowners’ property rights (depending whether it is res nullius or res propria for
example) is also a key parameter when identifying stakeholders. The following list (in alphabetic
order) covers some of the stakeholders who are likely to be important for large carnivore
conservation in various contexts:
● Animal welfare. Although the line between environmentalism, conservation, and welfare is often
blurry, there are many issues concerning the way humans treat large carnivores that are direct
concerns of people with animal welfare concerns. These people may, or may not, be organized into
advocacy groups. It is important to differentiate between animal welfare and animal rights
movements. While animal welfare interests are often unproblematic to integrate into conservation
discussions, animal rights agendas are largely incompatible with conservation discourses (The
Wildlife Society 2011).
● Domestic animal production. These are one of the major stakeholders because of the extent of
large carnivore depredation on livestock. Traditionally the focus has been on sheep (and goat)
producers, however it is clearly important to also include horse and cattle producers who use
extensive, free-grazing production systems. A final form of domestic animal production that
frequently comes into conflict with bears is bee-keeping. Depending on density, livestock grazing can
have both positive and negative impacts on habitat from a carnivore point of view.
● Ecotourism operators. Ecotourism, nature-based tourism and rural tourism are rapidly developing
fields. The presence of large carnivores in an area may serve as an important marketing attraction,
even though the chances of any visitors seeing them are slight simply knowing that they are out
there may be a positive experience to many tourists. Because of the ongoing policy of diversifying
rural incomes these are likely to be a key stakeholder group for the future. Their activities (bringing
more visitors to the area) may be seen by locals as beneficial and may help raise the profile of large
carnivores in local minds. For others it may mean disturbance on their property or the need to share
their own nature experience with “outsiders”, e.g. hunters may feel that tourists spook the game. If
not properly managed and controlled, this may potentially increase the disturbance of large
carnivores, or may influence their behaviour (e.g. when use baits at viewing sites; Kojola & Heikkinen
● Environmentalists. There are many NGOs concerned with the conservation of biodiversity who are
engaged with large carnivore issues. These NGOs represent their memberships’ desires to see large
carnivores survive and thrive in modern-day Europe. Motivations are diverse but reflect both their
members desire to conserve carnivores because they feel it enriches their lives and because of an
ethical belief in the intrinsic rights of large carnivores to exist. In this latter context conservation
groups may perceive themselves as both representatives of their human membership and the closest
possible thing to a representative for the species themselves.
● Farmers. Bears are frequently involved in damage to fruit trees in orchards, and occasionally may
damage some crops.
● Foresters. Because foresters directly affect the structure of large carnivores’ primary habitat they
can be very influential in carnivore conservation. For lynx and wolves who are habitat generalists the
main impact is via the direct (culling regime influenced by levels of damage) and indirect (forage
availability influenced by opening of canopy and choice of tree species and diversity of species
planted) effects of forestry on wild ungulates. Bears are more directly influenced by choice of tree
species (mast is important bear food in central and southern Europe) and disturbance of winter dens.
Bears may also in some situations cause some damage to trees due to bark stripping of conifers,
although their impact may be small compared to wild ungulates.
● Hunters. Hunting is a very widespread activity that occurs over most of the European continent.
Many of the most valued game species (wild ungulates) are the staple prey of large carnivores.
Because of this there is often a conflict over real and perceived competition for game, and wolf
depredation on hunting dogs in some places. In addition, there are a diversity of social conflicts
between hunters and other stakeholders and institutions. It is only recently that the importance of
involving the hunters as a key stakeholder in large carnivore conservation has been recognized. Large
carnivores depend on being able to prey on wild ungulates, so that their survival depends on healthy
populations of these game species.
● Landowners. Europe varies in the extent to which farmland and forest are owned privately or by
the state. However, because of the legal importance of property rights and the potential economic
impacts of large carnivores it is obvious that landowners should be considered as central
stakeholders, especially in situations where their interests are not covered by domestic animal
production, hunting or forestry interests. In countries where access to land requires landowner
permission, landowner cooperation is essential for conducting monitoring, research and other
● Media. Although there have been few studies of the role of media in large carnivore issues in
Europe (Frafjord 1988; Kaczensky et al. 2001) the media are obviously a very important stakeholder
in any policy arena as they are both the public’s main source of information and a major shaper of
attitudes and perceptions. Media are very diverse (print, internet, TV, radio) and exist at many scales
(from local to national and international) making it complicated to identify the appropriate
representatives to at different scales.
● Outdoor recreationists. Many people engage in recreation in the mountain and forested habitats
where large carnivores live. Forms of recreation are as diverse as walking, fishing, gathering berries
and mushrooms and a range of modern activities such as mountain biking and skiing. These activities
may well influence some large carnivores because of disturbance, and the presence of carnivores
may enhance or diminish their nature experiences. There may also be some constraints placed on
their recreational activities because of large carnivore conservation concerns. Including these groups,
for example via some of the many hiking and other recreation associations, may also provide a route
of access to a wider, but otherwise unstructured, groups of stakeholders representing the wider
public, both rural and urban.
● Policy makers / decision makers. The various political and bureaucratic institutions that make and
administer decisions and policies are without doubt a crucial stakeholder in just about any
biodiversity conservation context. No other stakeholder group has more formal power and influence
over the issue. For any process to have real lasting impact it is crucial that it is endorsed and enabled
by the formal institutions who are the holders of formal authority. However, the extent to which
these stakeholders should be actively involved in engagement processes varies with context. In some
cases their involvement may be crucial, whereas in others it may actually be counterproductive.
● Reindeer herders. The case of semi-domestic reindeer herding, by both Sami and non-Sami, is a
very special case that is increasingly coming into focus in the Nordic countries because of the high
level of conflict and the complexity brought to it by the indigenous peoples status of the Sami.
Carnivores negatively impact reindeer herding through depredation, however across much of arctic
Europe, semi-domestic reindeer are the main prey of wolverines and lync.
● Rural residents. Because they are wide ranging large carnivore home ranges include the areas
where many people live, work and engage in recreation. Carnivore presence therefore touches on
the lives of many people who are not engaged in any of the above mentioned activities. Rural
residents are diverse, and have been shown to have diverse attitudes towards large carnivores,
ranging from the very positive to fear. Although they are a crucial stakeholder group and will almost
always outnumber the number of farmers, hunters, foresters or landowners in any given area
occupied by large carnivores, they are typically very difficult to engage with because of a general lack
of any umbrella organisations at a large scale. Substantial efforts to engage with them could greatly
benefit any stakeholder process. The extent to which their local elected representatives reflect the
subtle views of the wider public or the louder voices of special interest groups is an issue that is often
● Scientists. Scientists are a multi-faceted stakeholder. To the extent that many scientists define
themselves as conservation biologists (an openly mission-driven science) they clearly have
overlapping interests with the conservationists. However, in addition they possess unique knowledge
and experience which is vital to the success of any process. This includes knowledge about human
society, legislation and politics from social scientists and knowledge about the ecology of the species
that are involved in the discussion. Because the ecology of the species is one of the externalities that
places some constraints on the range of viable outcomes it is crucial that all available scientific
knowledge is made available to any process to ensure that it can be science-based.
● Spatial planners and engineers. Their activities have direct impacts on large carnivore habitat
through the infrastructure they create, and any requirements that are made on them to consider the
interests of large carnivores (i.e. such as building crossing structures or rerouting roads or railways)
will have serious economic and technical impacts on their activities. Because of the cumulative
impacts of infrastructure projects, it is becoming increasingly important to engage with this group of
● Wider public. The very existence of pan-European legislation like the Habitats Directive and the
Bern Convention reflect the idea that biodiversity, including large carnivores, is a matter of shared
public interest for the whole of Europe whether they live in the proximity of large carnivores or not.
This is also reflected in the national legislation of many European countries where wildlife is
technically the property of the public or the state. It has been frequently pointed out that involving
the interests of this wider public is crucial for a process to be truly democratic, although the
challenges of doing so are great. Some authors even insist on the recognition of future generations as
stakeholders (Maser & Pollio 2012).
● Zoos. European zoos have shown an interest in large carnivore conservation in recent years and
have a number of ways to contribute. The major contribution that zoos can make is in their potential
for delivering information to wide segments of the public. In addition, there are some very limited
cases where zoos may be a source of animals for reintroductions in the context of Europe. This is
mainly just the case for Iberian lynx (not covered by this report), although Eurasian lynx from captive
origins have been used in reintroductions in the recent past. Zoos can also be useful in cases where
wild free-living animals are injured and need to be confined for rehabilitation for short periods.
6 From conflict to coexistence
Conflicts are common in all areas of life. As a result, methods to deal with conflicts have been
developed in many fields as diverse as marriage counseling and corporate personnel management as
well as natural resource management and biodiversity conservation issues. Massive efforts have also
been placed into conducting research into understanding conflicts and in applying a wide range of
conflict reduction techniques in the field with biodiversity and natural resource conflicts (Webler et
al. 2001; Young et al. 2007, 2010; Chase et al. 2004; Maser & Pollio 2012; Redpath et al. 2013;
Sidaway 2005; Thompson et al. 2005; Newig & Fritsch 2009). The literature on the topic has exploded
in recent years. Unfortunately, there has been very little systematic research into evaluating the
relative success of different approaches. In other words there is a lot of theory and a lot of practice,
but generally there is a disconnect between these two parts (Maser & Polio 2012; Rauschmayer et al.
2009; Reed 2008; Sidaway 2005). The attempts that have been made to evaluate various approaches
have indicated that stakeholder engagement helps in many cases, but not all, and that things are
very situation dependent making it impossible to offer an off-the-shelf tool-kit. Approaches will
therefore need to be tailor made to suit each specific set of circumstances, even though there are
many common elements that have been identified as contributing to success. As a result we use this
section to offer a combination of basic principles that have consistently been shown to be crucial in
successful conflict reduction, some conceptual insights into the specific case of large carnivore
conservation, and a list of recommendations for potential activities that are based on a wide range of
experience from the field.
6.1 What does coexistence look like?
“Coexistence” between large carnivores and rural communities is widely stated as the goal of large
carnivore conservation policies. However, it is often unclear what coexistence means in practice. In
the naïve representation it is often hoped that rural people will hold positive attitudes towards large
carnivores, value their presence and live in an absence of conflict. It is also sometimes claimed that
the attitudes of rural people are more positive in areas where they have shared space for a long time
with carnivores in contrast to areas where they have recently returned. Although a majority of the
public, both urban and rural, in areas where carnivores have long existed and where they have just
returned, clearly supports the idea of large carnivore conservation, the reality on the ground at the
local level is very complex. When looking at areas where people have had a long term or continuous
experience of living with large carnivores there is still a diversity of attitudes, with many rural
stakeholders being negative towards large carnivores and experiencing a range of conflicts with
them. This is especially true for wolves, who are usually associated with the most negative attitudes
(compared to bears, lynx and wolverines), and who are responsible for the most conflicts (per capita)
with livestock, and additionally with dogs (Andersone & Ozolins 2004). Conflict can best be viewed as
something competitive in nature, with the main focus on immediate, economic and practical impacts
of carnivores (Treves et al. 2006). In such areas “coexistence” can be best described as a state where
conflict exists but where interactions are kept within acceptable limits (both material and
perceptional and behavioural on the part of the human population and biologically on the part of the
wolf). This is often achieved through a process of interaction (e.g. carnivore hunting) and mutual
adaptation (e.g. adapting livestock husbandry methods and tolerating a chronic, but low level of
depredation). This idea of the need for reciprocity in the relationship and the need to empower rural
people to take some form of action is emerging as a crucial issue to understand the human –
carnivore relationship (Campbell 2005; Lescureux & Linnell 2010; Lescureux et al. 2011b). The
important thing about attitudes in such a state is not so much that all people like the carnivores, but
that they accept that they have a right to be there as long as their impact and behaviour can be kept
within tolerable limits and that they regard the system of governance that controls their relationship
with carnivores as being fair. Fear may well be present in such areas, but tends to be placed in a
more objective context (Lescureux et al. 2011a). Large carnivores also tend to be regarded as real
animals and less as political or social symbols. In areas with this long term cohabitation it is clearly
important to maintain the existing mechanisms by which rural people and large carnivores have
managed to “negotiate” their dynamically balanced “coexistence”. However, it is also crucial that
effective monitoring is in place to ensure that these interactions occur within the limits of what a
population can tolerate without its viability being jeopardized.
In areas where large carnivores recolonize after periods of absence the question becomes more one
of defining a new relationship that can be termed “coexistence”. The conflict situation is more
complex because in addition to the “competitive” (economic and practical) impacts of carnivores,
one must also deal with the emergence of the wider social and political conflicts (Figari & Skogen
2011). Adapting to externally imposed change and building new relationships is often painful and
controversial. The key issues here again are to find technical means to balance the mutual impacts so
that they are acceptable (ensure that carnivore populations achieve viability and that the carnivores
do not represent an unacceptably large added threat to already vulnerable rural livelihoods). It also
requires that the social and political conflicts are channeled into legal (i.e. combat illegal killing) and
constructive directions as society tries to do for other political issues. In other words we should not
expect an absence of conflict, but we should endeavor to achieve what is termed a “bounded
conflict” – or a conflict constrained within limits and played out according to rules that stakeholders
and wider society regard as being acceptable (Cuppen 2012; Peterson et al. 2004; McShane et al.
2011). We cannot hope for universally positive attitudes towards carnivores and agreement with the
goals of conservation policy, but we should strive to achieve a widespread acceptance of the
legitimacy of carnivore governance and an acceptance that a wider society has the right to pursue a
conservation agenda which has been developed through democratic institutions. This, however,
requires the definition of management rules that make the presence of carnivores acceptable to
those stakeholders who are experiencing most of the conflicts. Increasing the mutual understanding
of different standpoints and building trust between different stakeholder groups should also be a
target. This process would be greatly facilitated if it was possible to remove some of the symbolism
associated with the carnivores such that each issue (those linked to the animal and those linked to
wider social issues) can be addressed independently. However, it would be naïve to imagine that all
aspects of large carnivore conflicts can be resolved or solved in these very political contexts where
the species have come to symbolize deeply held values. In such contexts, large carnivores represent a
truly “wicked problem” (Cuppen 2012).
It is also important to note the difference between attitudes and behaviours. Within a context of
coexistence it is therefore most crucial that people’s behaviour adapts to large carnivores and that
their behaviour does not have non-sustainable impacts on carnivore populations. When viewing
coexistence as an interactive process, and where there should be a certain degree of reciprocity
between people and carnivores, it is also important to consider to what extent carnivores can adapt
their behaviour to humans, and explore mechanisms that can promote this co-adaptation.
6.2 Prevention, resolution and management of conflicts
Strategies to deal with conflicts fall into three broad categories, depending on the nature of the
conflict. These three approaches are technical (practical solutions to practical conflicts), political
(policy and legal issues) and cultural (how people and institutions interact with each other).
Strategies also need to be applied in three different contexts. Firstly, there is the proactive strategy
of preventing the development of conflicts in the first case. Awareness of the potential for conflict
should strongly motivate efforts to avoid starting them. Secondly, is the strategy of resolving
conflicts. Resolution implies dealing with the underlying causes and finding a peaceful end to the
conflict. Thirdly, some conflicts are so fundamental and involve such deeply rooted values that they
cannot be resolved. In such cases the goal must be to manage the conflict such that it is bounded
within acceptable limits.
Despite the diversity of conflicts associated with large carnivores and the diversity of approaches that
exist to reducing these conflicts, there is one common feature that appears to be central to a
successful approach. And this is the need to engage with a diversity of stakeholders in a targeted,
context dependent and meaningful manner.
7 Special challenges with respect to stakeholder engagement in the
context of large carnivores
Every case where stakeholder engagement is utilized in an attempt to resolve conflicts offers its own
unique challenges. However, large carnivores offer a special set of challenges that make the process
even harder, from both principle and practical points of view (Maser & Pollio 2012).
Large carnivores occur at low densities and roam over large areas. This implies that their
conservation requires coordinated actions over massive scales that will frequently stretch over many
sub-national and international administrative borders. Each individual large carnivore will typically
have many hundreds or thousands of people living within or adjacent to its home range. When
multiplied up to the scales of habitat that carnivores occupy the numbers become huge. For
examples, bears, wolves and lynx have regular or permanent presence in ~800.000 km
European continent (10-20% of the area of Europe). This implies that there are a huge number of
people who can potentially be viewed as legitimate stakeholders. Wolves especially are expanding to
new areas, such that the area under influence is constantly expanding.
7.2 Intensity and diversity of conflicts
While large carnivores can live with low to medium levels of conflict in many areas, there are some
flashpoints where conflicts can be very intense. This intensity is of both an economic nature, in areas
where livestock are killed, and a social / political nature. Some of these conflicts can touch on rather
fundamental values that people are very reluctant to change or compromise, and emotions can often
7.3 Symbolism and cultural values
Large carnivores are, and always have been, highly symbolic for a diversity of wider issues. This
implies that any conflict surrounding large carnivores will also often contain a wide range of other
issues that have little to do with the carnivores directly, but which can carry into the conflict.
7.4 Species differences
Although the four species of large carnivores share many features in terms of ecology and habitat
there are important species specific differences in terms of conflicts. Wolves, for example, are almost
universally subject to the most polarized points of view and associated with the most intense
conflicts, both of material and social natures. The relative placement of the other species depends
very much on context. For example, wolverines are associated with many reindeer herding conflicts
but few hunter conflicts. Fear is mainly displayed towards wolves and bears, rather than lynx and
wolverines. Although there is added value to dealing with the collective idea of “large carnivores” in
many issues it is important to not let this grouping obscure the species specific challenges and
It is also important to realize that there will often be trade-offs required between the diversity of
conflicts and the diversity of potential measures to address conflicts. A measure that will address one
conflict may enhance another. For example, the introduction of fencing or livestock guarding dogs
may interfere with recreational activities or with hunters. While using hunting as a management tool
for large carnivores will probably be popular among hunters it may be perceived as a source of
conflict by many environmentalists.
8 Preventing the development of conflicts
Although large carnivores are often associated with a diversity of conflicts, the relative extent to
which the different conflicts appear, and the intensity with which they develop, are both highly
variable across Europe (Blanco & Cortes 2009; Kaczensky 1999). There are in fact many areas where
the species coexist with people with remarkably little conflict, including many of the areas covered
by the largest populations of large carnivores in eastern, southeastern and southwestern Europe.
Ensuring that conflicts do not grow is an important part of any large carnivore conservation strategy.
This requires maintaining the existing structures and institutions that seem to work and being
proactive with respect to any emerging conflict issues. Although far from being a universal factor,
many of the low conflict areas are where large carnivores are managed within the conventional
wildlife management frameworks. Wildlife management institutions are found throughout most of
Europe and have a considerable track record at preserving sustainable populations of game species
and balancing conflicts of interest between multiple stakeholders (especially the farmer - livestock
producer – forester - hunter grouping). Over many decades they have developed routines and
structures that work remarkably well and enjoy a high degree of popular legitimacy. In many parts of
northern and eastern Europe large carnivores have been managed within this framework in the same
way that their western European counterparts have managed wild ungulates.
Bears especially have been well managed within these systems because of the positive economic and
symbolic values associated with them. The fate of lynx and wolves has been more variable in the
past, but in recent decades many countries have shown an ability to integrate them into these
traditional wildlife management structures. In the countries where these systems exist and function
well it would be considered highly advisable to work with these structures and institutional
frameworks rather than try and create new structures. It is therefore important to identify the
elements of these structures that are crucial to their success and proactively identify threats to these
elements. For example, hunting of large carnivores has often been a part of this system in northern
and Eastern Europe, allowing rural communities to feel both a sense of control over the situation and
to obtain a benefit (recreational and / or economic through sales of trophy hunting) from the
carnivores. Any regulatory or legislative change to the ability to hunt will therefore potentially
destabilize these functional systems. Another example is the success of the traditional sheep
husbandry system in eastern and southern Europe with the shepherd /livestock guarding dog /night-
time enclosure components. This system permits the grazing of sheep with acceptable losses in areas
that have very high densities of large carnivores. Any changes to the economics of sheep production,
such as rising labour costs or the relative focus on producing milk vs meat risk stressing the system by
motivating the adoption of less carnivore compatible husbandry systems. The fact that European
agriculture is increasingly governed by complex subsidy systems provides a lot of opportunities for
influencing conflict potential provided that there is effective coordination between environmental,
agricultural and development sectors.
When it comes to the areas where large carnivores are recovering the emergence of conflicts is
somewhat inevitable, although the intensity of the conflicts and the extent to which they will
become political is hard to foresee. However, at this stage there is so much accumulated experience
that it is possible to predict the issues that will emerge. Although large carnivore recolonisation is
difficult to predict there are some obvious areas where the probability is greatest. In these areas
there should be some proactive planning on how to deal with issues when they emerge, permitting
9 Suggestions for concrete activities for stakeholder engagement and
reduction of conflicts with large carnivores
Across Europe a wide range of initiatives and activities have been launched during recent decades to
try and reduce conservation conflicts in Europe and beyond (Bouwma et al. 2010a,b; Newig & Fritsch
2009; Rauschmayer et al. 2009; Reed 2008). Virtually all modern approaches to conflict reduction
involve some degree of stakeholder engagement (Maser & Pollio 2012; Sidaway 2005). While there
has been little systematic evaluation of these activities, there is an accumulating body of case studies
and experience which allows the listing of a range of activities that could be potentially deployed
under different contexts to address different dimensions of the diverse conflicts associated with
large carnivores. There is no magic bullet method that solves all issues in all contexts, and in some
contexts stakeholder engagement and participation may not resolve conflicts (Young et al. 2013).
What we have learned is that it takes targeted methods to address concrete issues in specific
contexts. Among the range of forms of stakeholder engagement that exist, it is useful to consider
that a wide range of participatory tools exist that cover a diversity of approaches from consultation,
to decision making and action.
The outcome of a process also needs to be evaluated in multiple currencies, not just the number of
large carnivores in a population for example. This implies that improving the interaction between
stakeholders and institutions and social learning are as desirable outcomes as the conservation
status of carnivores, and the ideal process should lead to benefits in both. The modern day
commitment to increased stakeholder participation and dialogue in democracy and a strong civil
society requires a high degree of stakeholder engagement. These principles are enshrined in a range
of EU policies, including the Aarhus Convention (Rauschmayer et al. 2009). So not having
engagement with stakeholders is not a valid option. The question therefore remains about how best
to structure it. Therefore, the issues that need to be considered include;
- What type of process is needed?
- Who should initiate or facilitate the process?
- At what scale (European, national, regional or local)?
- Where and when should it be conducted?
- Who should be involved?
- How should the effects be evaluated?
There are many conflicts which are genuinely associated with a lack of information and
misunderstandings about issues as diverse as large carnivore ecology, legal frameworks, policy,
practical methods for conflict mitigation, and the impacts of human activities on carnivores. There is
a huge amount of ongoing research in the field leading to a constant production of new knowledge.
In addition, there is a constant turnover of people – both with new generations being born and
within the employees of various institutions. This implies that there is an almost endless and
recurring need for information. Access to information is one of the fundaments of the democratic
process and is a prerequisite for informed discussion. A desire for information is often expressed in
interviews and questionnaires (e.g. Wechselberger et al. 2006).
It is important to consider however, what messages are being communicated, which media are used
to transmit the message, to whom the messages are addressed, and who is used as the messenger.
Because of the importance of these issues it is important to do some baseline investigations into
these issues before investing in any actions. There is clear scope for using the distribution networks
and resources of stakeholder groups to disseminate important messages in a targeted manner to
those who most need to receive them. It is especially important that information is balanced and
honest, ideally allowing the perspectives and experiences from multiple interest groups to be
expressed to promote a higher degree of mutual insight. One strategy that appears to be successful
is to get a number of stakeholders to work with researchers and other relevant experts to produce
common information products that all sign off on. This greatly increases the legitimacy of the
products and helps dampen the conflicts over knowledge that frequently appear in connection with
large carnivore conservation. It also transforms information from being a one way, top-down, activity
into a collaborative process.
However, it is crucial to realize that information has its limits (Brainerd & Bjerke 2003; Heberlein &
Ericsson 2008). There are some actors in conflicts who are not interested in information, wide
segments of the public are not interested in the issue at all, and there is little evidence that
information changes attitudes, let alone fundamental values. In fact there is evidence that
information can actually serve to strengthen values through selective filtering of content among
people with strong views on an issue. Therefore, it is unlikely that information will dramatically
change the attitudes of those people who are already strongly opposed to carnivores, but it may
change the way the conflicts are played out and conducted. Ready access to well balanced and
authoritative information may also help to lessen the impact of some of the misinformation
campaigns that are emerging. Information may also be very important for maintaining positive
attitudes among the wider public who have no strong opinions on the topic, although reaching
groups who have insufficient interest to actively search for information represents a challenge and
requires creative approaches. Despite these caveats, access to information is an underlying
prerequisite for all other actions. The main point is that information on its own is rarely enough to
transform a conflict.
9.2 Technical working groups
In some areas where knowledge is contested it may be productive to establish a working group
composed of scientists and expert stakeholders who use a series of meetings or workshops to review
existing knowledge and experience and try and come to a common understanding on specific issues.
Areas of agreement can be identified, and if there are areas of disagreement it may be possible to
identify approaches to gathering new data to resolve the uncertainty. The output of such processes
can be very authoritative with high degrees of legitimacy and can provide the content for
information campaigns. The process also fosters a collaborative atmosphere among stakeholders.
Working groups tend to be very focused and technical in nature and usually involve a limited range of
experts rather than a broad stakeholder participation. Working groups can be used for just about any
issue, ranging from exploring the extent and nature of conflicts to identifying solutions. In several
areas there is a need to clarify legislative and administrative rules and procedures. This especially
concerns the operationalization of general concepts within the specific context of large carnivores. It
would have been very useful for expert groups to clarify some Europe wide issues related to defining
favourable conservation status, the acceptable use of derogations (Darpö 2011; Hiedanpää &
Bromley 2011; Mickanek 2012; Trouwborst 2010), the need for landuse restrictions in Natura 2000
sites because of large carnivores and the eligibility of mitigation measures to receive funds from the
diverse funding mechanisms within Europe. Other areas that would be fruitful would be best
practice guidelines for population monitoring and livestock depredation mitigation.
9.3 Outreach educational programs
In areas where carnivores return after long periods of absence rural people often find it hard to
readjust to living with these species again. Fear is often cited as a major factor, with carnivores being
perceived as an issue that reduces the quality of rural life (Linnell et al. 2002). Although wolves and
bears have been documented to kill people under certain circumstances the objective risk of being
harmed by a large carnivore is too low to quantify. However, the perceived risk is a very real issue to
many people, and simply sending out information materials is rarely enough to reassure people
(Linnell & Bjerke 2002). In a number of areas there have been projects that have tried to help people
readjust to living with carnivores again by organizing outdoor activities that take people into
carnivore habitat to demonstrate that life can go on as before, even if wolves and bears have
returned. These activities provide a perfect arena for different stakeholders to meet with a wide
segment of the rural public in a practical and positive setting. Such trips can be especially valuable if
combined with research or monitoring activities in the field.
The range of actions also includes employing carnivore advocates, or local contact people, who can
function as a contact point for rural people to gain access to information about carnivores, mitigation
methods, economic incentives and other issues. Having a predictable and accessible contact person
can be very conflict reducing as it provides a local face that can serve as an intermediary with the
administrators of a conservation policy that is often determined far away and perceived as being
9.4 Economic and practical assistance
For the conflicts that have an economic and material nature, such as depredation on livestock or
destruction of beehives for example, there are a number of technical solutions. These include actions
like the introduction of electric fences, or the use of livestock guarding dogs and other shepherding
systems (Linnell et al. 1996, 2012; Smith et al. 2000; Rigg 2001). The introduction of these measures
by a user who is unfamiliar with them can be facilitated by technical assistance to ensure that the
methods are applied correctly. Practical help both ensures their effective adoption and an
opportunity for meaningful face to face contacts and dialogue with individual users. In order to up-
scale from pilot projects to widespread use this form of outreach should ideally be institutionalized
within the agricultural sectors own support structures. Given the marginal economics in sheep
farming in many countries there will be a practical need to provide some economic assistance to help
the user adopt the new measures – either through providing funding or free materials. This being
said, experience has also shown that it is crucial that the user also provides some own contribution,
both in terms of money and labour, in order to ensure a sense of ownership.
The amount of change needed to adopt carnivore compatible husbandry methods varies hugely. In
systems where sheep are already kept on fields and fenced pastures it is not much effort to upgrade
from a conventional fence to an electric fence or introduce a livestock guarding dog (Kaartinen et al.
2009; Karlsson & Johansson 2010). If sheep are already herded (for example in connection with
milking or grazing areas among croplands) it is not such a dramatic change to introduce a livestock
guarding dog or upgrade the standards of a night-time enclosure (Mertens & Promberger 2000;
Mertens et al. 2002; Smith et al. 2000). However, for the extensive free-ranging systems that have
emerged in areas like the Alps and Norway (for sheep), throughout the Nordic countries (for
reindeer) or in northern Iberia (for horses) in the temporary absence of large carnivores adopting
carnivore compatible husbandry methods requires an almost total restructuring of the production
system (Espuno et al. 2004). In these cases the costs of adjustment can be very high. In places where
flocks are split over many different and small pastures, gathering them at night is often a big
constraint, whereas having one guarding dog per pasture may be an economically speaking
unsustainable option. Guarding dogs may also be not that well accepted by other parts of society.
Although no methods offer 100% protection from depredation, there is now a considerable body of
experience from both traditional and modern applications, and best-practice guidelines are now
readily available. The challenge is to create a will to adopt them, which at least in part will be aided
by developing the funding mechanisms and the practical assistance needed to implement them.
However, the scale of the challenge should not be underestimated, and neither should the cost (in
terms of conflict, economics and animal welfare) of not doing so.
Dealing with garbage is another practical issue of great importance in areas with bears, as having well
designed bins and dumps that prevent bear access can be crucial in preventing the development of
9.5 Emergency teams
There are a variety of situations where large carnivores end up in situations where there is a need for
a fine-tuned response. These include situations where specific individuals need to be rescued (e.g.
when accidentally trapped in a snare), treated (e.g. after a vehicle collision), discouraged (e.g. if bears
begin to frequent human food sources) or killed (e.g. following unacceptable levels of depredation on
livestock or an attack on a person). These are highly specialized tasks that require experts with
knowledge of specialist techniques for tracking, trapping, immobilizing, euthanizing, and treating wild
animals. These teams will typically require a diversity of members that can be drawn from a range of
stakeholder groups (e.g. field biologists, veterinarians, hunters). These teams need to have a clear
working protocol and to be regularly trained to perform their tasks. Continuous exchange of
experience should be used in upgrading protocols and further training. These teams can be very
conflict reducing in that they allow a graded and targeted response to situations that can become
conflictful, they convey an impression that the authorities are reacting to local acute situations and
they provide a forum for collabourative work where mutual exchange of knowledge is crucial.
9.6 Economic instruments – compensation and incentives
Paying a monetary compensation (ex post facto) for livestock killed by predators has become an
increasingly common strategy across Europe. The systems vary from country to country, with some
paying more than market value, others paying less than market value, some systems paying for all
animals lost while others only pay for animals that are documented as being lost, some paying only
for direct loss (dead and wounded animals) other for indirect costs too (e.g. less fattening and
induced abortion due to repeated attacks to flocks). There is also a huge variation in who pays. In
some countries compensation is paid by the government while in others it is paid by the hunters with
the lease for a specific area. Despite their widespread adoption the only function of these systems
seems to be to protect livestock producers from economic loss. Research has frequently shown that
compensation does little to increase acceptance of large carnivores. The existence of compensation
provides a disincentive for producers to adapt their methods to the presence of large carnivores, and
in the worst cases compensation can destabilize the whole livestock production system. How far such
differences in compensating mechanisms may translate into unfair economical concurrency between
countries should be assessed too. There are also many problems associated with the operation of a
compensation system. Documentation of the cause of death of livestock requires careful
examination and is not always possible, resulting in many conflicts over the basic facts of the events.
Some of the existing compensation systems are associated with inefficiency and corruption leading
to dissatisfaction among users. The transaction costs of documenting losses and processing claims
can be high, and the amounts needed to be paid out can become very high (Agarwala et al. 2010;
Boitani et al. 2010; Bulte & Rondeau 2006; Naughton-Treves et al. 2003; Naess et al. 2011; Nyhus et
al. 2005; Schwerdtner &.Gruberb 2007).
There is now a broad consensus that if compensation is used at all it should generally be conditional
on the adoption and effective use of preventative measures, and that compensation should not be so
large as to remove all incentives to prevent depredation. In some situations, for example in areas
where carnivores are only just colonizing or when an individual carnivore appears in a place where it
could not be expected, it may well be appropriate to pay unconditional compensation during the
process of transition. It is crucial that any compensation system should involve a careful and
standardized inspection of killed livestock to protect against fraud and efficient payment. On the
other hand, because no one prevention measure can warrant a zero level predation risk,
compensation should not be fully dependent on the implementation of prevention. Confirmed
records of livestock killed by carnivores can also serve as useful monitoring data, often very useful for
detecting recent colonization of new areas.
In areas where depredation on livestock is regular and predictable it appears to be far better to pay a
risk based incentive (i.e. pay for carnivore presence) or invest heavily in preventative measures
rather than pay depredation based compensation (Zabel & Holm-Müller 2008). This greatly reduces
transaction costs associated with documentation losses and processing claims and switches the focus
to documenting carnivore presence (useful for monitoring) and adapting husbandry to minimize
losses (Schwerdtner &.Gruberb 2007). To date this is only used for reindeer losses, but the approach
shows potential (Zabel & Holm-Müller 2008). On the other hand, such an approach requires that a
consensus has been reached between stakeholders and decision-makers, so that the risk based
incentive is not perceived by the former as a disengagement of the latter.
One potential approach to minimizing the economic impact and maximizing the economic benefits of
large carnivores involves the idea of branding, where consumers are asked to pay higher prices for
livestock produce that has been produced within large carnivore range using carnivore compatible
methods. While there have been several local scale attempts to launch such a product it has never
been up-scaled to significant levels. Given the success of similar campaigns for other products there
is considerable scope for exploring its utility with European livestock or honey production. However,
it is also important to consider that there may be some opposition to this strategy from stakeholders
who may be fundamentally opposed to the presence of these species in their landscape. Large
carnivores could also be used to increase the perceived value of a range of other tourism products,
including rural tourism, agri-tourism, ecotourism and trophy hunting if conducted in areas where the
large carnivores are present.
9.8 Joint activity
The idea of engaging in joint activity is gaining ground as a mechanism to bring about constructive
engagement between different stakeholders (Skogen 2003). It promotes face to face contact and
mutual understanding as well as conveying an admission of shared responsibility to reach common
goals. There are three areas where such activity could be especially useful in the context of large
A large part of the conflict around large carnivores concerns uncertainty or disagreement about the
size and distribution of the populations. It would be highly desirable to obtain better data about
carnivore populations, and to come to a better degree of agreement about these results. Throughout
the Nordic, Baltic and many eastern European countries (e.g. Romania, Slovenia, Poland and Croatia)
hunters and / or foresters have long been the main providers of data about all wildlife species. This
cooperation between wildlife managers, researchers, foresters and hunters has been most
developed in the Nordic / Baltic countries where hunters engage in highly organized data collection
that is provided to managers and researchers (Braa et al. 2000; Kindberg et al. 2011; Lindén et al.
1996; Linnell et al. 2010; Solberg & Sæther 1999). The result is a unique access to data for the
researchers and managers and a greater degree of buy-in and understanding from the hunters and
foresters because they have taken part in the process (e.g. Skogen 2003). It also means that their
contribution is much more easily visualized and appreciated. The Alpine countries also use networks
of observers to collect data within the frames of the French wolf-lynx network and the international
SCALP project (Molinari-Jobin et al. 2012). This model could be easily expanded to many parts of
Europe, especially with the present access to camera-traps and DNA methods that permit the quality
control of data provided, and it could be expanded beyond hunters and foresters to all those who
spend time in the outdoors as well as landowners. Such an approach could be conceptually organized
in a way similar to the ever expanding network of citizen science initiatives that are constantly
showing their value for monitoring the state of European nature (Roy et al. 2012). The difference in
this case is that the desired outputs would be both the data provided and the resultant reduction in
conflict resulting from the co-production of knowledge.
A second area of joint activity lies within the area of livestock husbandry. Adapting to, and operating,
carnivore-compatible husbandry methods often involves an increase in labour. There is great
potential for conservation volunteers for example to take part in this work. Such programs have been
piloted, especially in North America, and while volunteers will never have the full set of skills of
shepherds they can certainly assist in many tasks. For example, a French NGO (Ferus) provides
shepherds facing wolf predation with specially trained volunteers to help take care of the flocks and
managing the prevention tools locally (such as electric fences).
A third area concerns the involvement of stakeholders in field research projects. A lot of ecological
field data collection is labour intensive and requires a detailed knowledge of the landscape. For this
reason, local people, be they hunters, foresters, herders, naturalists or simply outdoorsmen are ideal
partners for researchers. Given some basic training, local people can collect valuable data from the
field, often more cheaply and more efficiently than researchers. The fact that they live in the study
area also reduces travel costs. The co-production of knowledge provides opportunities for scientific
and local knowledge to interact and build on their mutual strengths. At its best local knowledge
provides detailed and intimate insights into local ecosystems and landscapes, while scientific
knowledge can provide modern tools (GPS-telemetry, DNA methods etc) that allow insights that are
impossible for local observers. This combination results in the production of an integrated knowledge
which has a greater legitimacy than knowledge produced in isolation.
9.9 Study visits and experience-transfer
Trust and legitimacy are key issues in stakeholder engagement. In many cases there is likely to be a
high degree of trust within stakeholder groups as they presumably have common values, goals and
experiences. There is therefore a lot to be gained by bringing members of a given stakeholder group
from different areas together to exchange experience. For example, sheep farmers in eastern and
southern Europe have generations of continuous experience at farming sheep in the presence of
large carnivores. These farmers are probably the best communicators to discuss the potential for
change with their western European counterparts who have to relearn all the old methods. The same
potential benefits exist in all directions for almost all stakeholder groups to learn from their peers
with contrasting experiences, although each may need to adapt the experience to local situations.
9.10 Structured decision making
In some cases conflicts are mainly of a technical nature, for example when discussing the impact of
hunting quotas or the impact of removing certain numbers of problem animals, or evaluating the
most cost effective way to reach a certain goal. For these cases there are a number of statistical
approaches that can be used to model the impact of different strategies. The ability to produce a
series of mathematical scenarios allows the exploration of different strategies. Although the internal
mathematics of these models is often complex, it is rarely problematic to engage stakeholders in the
process of using them, collabouratively coming up with different scenarios and input parameters and
discussing the meanings of the outputs (Redpath et al. 2004; Westly & Miller 2003). These
approaches can be applied in technical conflicts over details rather than broad value based conflicts.
Potential areas of application can concern cases where the impact of hunting quotas are
controversial or in cases of landuse planning where the impacts of infrastructure routing or
placement is being explored. Questions concerning the optimal impact of various economic
instruments can also be modeled.
9.11 Contact forums
A common measure to facilitate the distribution of information and improved dialogue has been the
establishment of contact forums. These usually consist of regular (annual or bi-annual) meetings
where responsible management agencies, a diversity of stakeholders, and scientists meet to discuss
issues related to large carnivores and conflicts. Benefits include providing a structured forum for the
presentation of information, such as the latest research results, two-way discussions about
management issues and the opportunity for the development of trust between stakeholders. Such
forums represent a formal institutionalization of participation and dialogue and have a high degree of
symbolic as well as practical value.
9.12 Institution building
The weakness of many public (formal) institutions involved in large carnivore conservation has been
identified as both a threat to the survival of large carnivores and a cause of conflict with many
stakeholder groups. It is therefore possible to imagine a widespread capacity building program to
help institutions build capacity in a diversity of relevant issues including; population monitoring,
stakeholder engagement, law enforcement and damage mitigation.
While institution building is needed at many levels and in many different systems, it could be highly
advantageous to build on the existing wildlife management structures, with their existing networks
among hunters, farmers and foresters. These structures provide tried and trusted frameworks for
managing wildlife and are deeply imbedded within rural communities. Although these structures may
require some modernization and adaptation to live up to present day requirements when it concerns
large carnivore conservation they represent a potentially efficient and irreplaceable resource.
However, in some countries these structures do not exist, or do not function, and therefore need to
be built up from the ground.
One of the clear challenges facing large carnivore conservation is the need for transboundary
cooperation. This requires the development of new institutional arrangement at both national (for
federal countries) and international levels to facilitate cross-jurisdictional communication. The
challenges here are great because it does not only involve communication between EU (commonly
bound by the Habitats Directive) and Council of Europe (joined by the Bern Convention) members,
but depends very heavily on what occurs in a number of other states like Russia and Belarus.
9.13 Hunting and lethal control of large carnivores
When trying to integrate large predatory mammals into a crowded continent like Europe it is
inevitable that some individuals that demonstrate problematic behaviour will need to be killed. Bears
in particular show a tendency to develop potentially dangerous behaviour when they become food-
conditioned (Linnell et al. 1999). Non-lethal forms of removal such as translocation or removal to
captivity are basically non-viable as large scale sustainable strategies in Europe (Linnell et al. 1997),
although there may be some potential for small scale actions (e.g. the translocation of lynx within the
Alps; Ryser et al. 2004). It is important that well thought out and well communicated protocols exist
for how to deal with specific individuals who display specific and unwanted behavior, such as food
conditioning, boldness or attacks on people. These protocols should be followed up rapidly when the
triggering circumstances are present. While the use of lethal methods to selectively remove specific
individuals is relatively uncontroversial from both social and legal points of view (although see Tosen
& Bath 2009 for an exception) there are other more controversial cases (Treves 2009).
One case concerns the large populations of large carnivores that occur in some parts of Europe
(Kaczensky et al. 2013). These populations number in the hundreds or thousands of individuals and
there is little doubt about their current viability. Some of these populations show considerable
potential for growth. While there is considerable variation in the relationship between carnivore
density and conflict when comparing between areas with different social and ecological contexts
(e.g. Blanco & Cortes 2009; Kaczensky 1999), there is often a link between the level of conflict and
the size and distribution of the population within a given context (e.g. Gervasi et al. 2012; Herfindal
et al. 2005) and the limit of public tolerance will often be reached before the carnivores reach the
habitat’s biological carrying capacity or before density dependent processes begin to effectively
regulate population size. In many cases there is therefore a practical desire expressed by some
stakeholders to limit the size of these populations to maintain them at their present levels (or at least
to prevent endless growth). Stabilisation is currently the management goal in many of the countries
with large numbers of carnivores which can be seen as a consequence of success in conservation
(Swenson et al. 1998; Ring et al. 2008). From a biological point of view stabilising large populations
with rapid potential growth rates requires the killing of a significant proportion of the population
each year, depending on species demographics and ecological context. As well as limiting the size of
the population hunting can also give rural people a sense that they have some personal control over
the carnivores with which they share their rural landscapes (Andersone & Ozolins 2004; Bisi et al.
2007; Liukkonen et al. 2009; Majic et al. 2011) and create the potential opportunity for using
carnivores as a resource (Knot et al. in press). In many of these areas with large populations lynx,
bears and wolves have been routinely hunted as official or de facto game species (Salvatori et al.
2002; Kaczensky et al. 2013), and conflicts are currently not that high. Experience has shown that
major restrictions on these practices may be potentially perceived (depending on context) as a loss of
power, a loss of control, the loss of a valued activity and a loss of a resource, all imposed by an
external authority (Bisi et al. 2007; Liukkonen et al. 2009; Hiedenpää 2011; Majic et al. 2011), factors
which can potentially increase levels of conflict. In the absence of widespread illegal killing,
restrictions on legal harvest will also inevitably lead to population growth unless there are other
external factors limiting the population. Increasing density beyond certain points will potentially
result in an increase in conflicts. In these cases allowing the continuation of hunting of carnivores
may be regarded as important to contain conflicts and ensure that the relatively high degree of
public tolerance of carnivores in these large populations is maintained, provided its impact is
adequately monitored and does not affect the long-term viability of populations. It is also important
that hunting in one country must not negatively influence populations in neighbouring countries
through source-sink dynamics and not hamper an expansion of the population’s range into suitable
habitats officially declared/considered as a part of the favourable reference range of the species,
both within the country and in neighbouring countries (Linnell et al. 2008).
The other situation concerns the possibility to allow limited hunting in smaller populations or in areas
with no recent tradition of carnivore hunting. The dynamics of many populations show positive
growth and models indicate that low levels of regulated harvest may not prevent even relatively
small populations from continuing to grow provided that harvest is limited, well regulated and the
population closely monitored (Chapron et al. 2003; Linnell et al. 2010; Nilsen et al. 2012; Sæther et
al. 2005, 2010; Tufto et al. 1999). It is claimed by hunters that allowing even a limited harvest will
reduce some social conflicts by giving them an opportunity to have some influence over carnivore
populations, as well as allowing them to exploit carnivores as a resource for recreational or trophy
hunting. The social and economic effects that this will have on wider rural communities will depend
very much on how the hunting system is organized (local hunters versus outside hunters) and the
general standing of hunting in the specific communities. Worth noticing is that opening for hunting
may however cause environmentalists and segments of the wider public to feel disempowered and
lead to an increase in litigation and therefore an escalation of conflict, as illustrated by the Swedish
wolf example (Darpö 2011, Michanek 2012). Also the process of slowing population growth may
potentially provide more time to adapt to their reappearance. Finally, the claim is made that allowing
legal harvest will reduce rates of illegal killing. Many of these claims are often controversial (Treves
2009; Treves & Martin 2011). On the one hand, there is some evidence to support the idea that
hunting might in certain contexts increase trust towards authorities and acceptance of large
carnivores (Bisi et al. 2007; Ericsson et al. 2004; Liukkonen et al. 2009; Skogen et al. 2003; Sjölander-
Lindqvist et al. 2010), on the other hand, it is not clear if hunting in such situations may not
ultimately be detrimental to the recovery of small carnivore populations by reinforcing intolerance
towards population growth. It also appears that in some contexts illegal hunting may have been
facilitated by poorly organised legal harvest. This is therefore an area that urgently needs more
research and where it may be possible to try out certain culling regimes and document their impact
on tolerance and the level of illegal killing (Andrén et al. 2006).
It must be borne in mind that the killing of charismatic species like large carnivores is often very
controversial with environmentalists, animal welfare advocates and many scientists, as well as
elements among the wider public. This returns us to the central dilemma associated with large
carnivore conflicts – that while the wider public is generally very positive to their conservation, the
conflict is disproportionately felt by a minority in society. Thus it becomes a question of to what
extent concessions should be given to these minorities, which strikes at the debate about democracy
should balance majorities and minorities (Arblaster 2002). From a conservation policy point of view it
is also important to consider that while hunting is controversial, it is regarded as a legitimate activity,
as highlighted by the endorsement of the European Charter on Hunting and Biodiversity by all
signatories of the Bern Convention, which includes all EU member states. This implies that within
existing policy frameworks discussions about hunting carnivores should not focus on the moral
principle of killing carnivores, but instead should be focused on issues of legality concerning the way
it is organized (Darpö 2011; Hiedanpää & Bromley 2011; Mickanek 2012; Shine 2005) and biological
issues concerning how it impacts population function, structure and viability). Under this
consideration the key issues are linked to (1) the quality of the monitoring system (e.g. Caniglini et al.
2012; Flagstad et al. 2004; Linnell et al. 1998, 2007; Solberg et al. 2006), (2) knowledge about the
demographics of the species / population in question (e.g. Chapron et al. 2003, 2009; Nilsen et al.
2012a,b), (3) the ability of the decision making processes to respond to observed population changes
and handle uncertainties (e.g. Milner-Gulland et al. 2010; Bunnefeld et al. 2011), and (4) the extent
to which hunter behaviour can be predicted (Bischof et al. 2008, 2012) and regulated (Rowcliffe et al.
2004; St Johns et al. 2012), and to which illegal killing can be minimised.
9.14 Delegation of power to local levels
At the same time as Europe has undergone a process of building pan-European structures there has
been another trend within countries to delegate decision making, or decision implementing,
authority to lower, more local levels. This is formally endorsed by the EU under the principle of
subsidiarity. The theory behind delegation and decentralization is that local level decisions will enjoy
greater legitimacy and be more adapted to local needs. The global experience with such structures is
mixed and it is far from automatic that local structures deliver the benefits they are meant to deliver
(see Linnell 2005 for a review). It is especially challenging for large carnivores because their
conservation requires large scale (i.e. international) coordination of effort to manage whole
populations (Linnell et al. 2008; Linnell & Boitani 2012). Another issue is that so much of their
management is constrained by international agreements that there is relatively little decision making
authority that can be delegated. The Fennoscandian countries have tried a variety of structures with
decentralized and delegated authority, although the experience is mixed and no real conclusions
about their success are available yet (Guldvik & Arnesen 2001; Sandström et al. 2009).
Many European countries have formal federal structures where responsibility for environmental and
biodiversity issues is often delegated to autonomous regions or federal states. Experience with this is
mixed, and many cases of lack of coordination and institutional failures are apparent, while there is
little indication that the greater proximity to local people serves to reduce conflicts.
9.15 Developing inclusive visions for the European landscape
Many conflicts are associated with perceived fundamental differences in how stakeholders value the
landscape and view their place and role within these landscapes. However, experience has shown
that there is usually a huge amount of unrecognized common ground between many stakeholders
that needs to be visualized and capitalized on. Collaborative visioning is a participatory process
where areas of common ground and areas of real dissent can be identified. Because these exercises
are future orientated it is also possible to use scenario methods to help minimize discussions about
differences or disagreements from the past.
Europe offers a very specific conservation context that strongly differs from the more widespread
wilderness models that are well developed in North America, Africa and Asia. The European focus has
always been much more based on an integration of humans and nature and the interweaving of
natural and cultural heritage. The needs to integrate human culture and nature are clearly enshrined
in the preambles and texts of the Habitats Directive, the Bern Convention and the European
Landscape Convention. This model potentially offers a place for most stakeholders’ interests in a
multi-functional landscape. While this vision has been implicit for many decades it has rarely been
well articulated. However, large carnivore conservation, and the emergence of a European
wilderness discourse are challenging these traditional visions. In effect, these two issues are
perceived as being threats to the continuation of traditional forms of landuse, lifestyle and
livelihoods that involve production (grazing, hunting, forestry), and conflict is very often derived from
fear (Maser & Pollio 2012).
It would have been very beneficial for a group of stakeholders to work together to articulate a large
scale and broad vision for how they think their various interests could be integrated within a shared
European landscape. This process could especially be useful to identify to what extent any conflicts
are actually about matters of rhetoric or language and confusions of scale rather than issues of
substance. If an integrative vision of how large carnivores, biodiversity, and human interests can be
developed and agreed upon by a diversity of stakeholders it could serve as a powerful
communicative tool to reduce conflicts associated with feelings of threat and serve as a constructive
driving force to motivate positive social and ecological outcomes.
9.16 Participatory development of action plans
Having detailed action plans or management plans is a key component for conservation. Not only
does such a plan ensure that the biological needs of the species are formally taken into account, but
it also provides a structured way to provide predictability for stakeholders who may be impacted by
this conservation. Issues of concern can be explicitly addressed and firmly anchored within formal
policy frameworks. Clear statements of goals and means provide a foundation for adaptation.
Traditionally, action plans have been written by experts or bureaucrats and have proven to be
sources of conflict in some cases. In recent decades there has been a widespread acceptance of the
need to involve stakeholders in the process. This can be achieved in a number of ways.
Firstly, stakeholders can be consulted at various stages of the process during which an action is
developed. This can be done in a range of ways, including allowing for written comments on drafts,
to holding public meetings, to constituting formal advisory groups of stakeholders to give input into a
process (Andersen et al. 2004; Anonymous 2007; Bisi et al. 2007; Bouwma et al. 2010a,b; Liukkonen
et al. 2004). All these processes serve to allow people with interests in the case to communicate their
concerns to the policy makers in structured manners. It is also common to accompany these
processes with the commissioning of a diversity of research and technical reports that summarise the
state of knowledge on various relevant topics. Original research can also be commissioned to fill
knowledge gaps. If the stakeholder involvement is conducted well and throughout the whole process
(especially starting early in the process) it is possible for such consultative processes to influence the
contents of action plans and convey a sense of legitimacy to the plans. However, no real power is
ever given to the stakeholders. Most existing European action plans for large carnivores have been
drawn up using these consultative processes.
A second approach is to convene a group of stakeholders, with expert facilitators, and delegate the
formal power of drawing up an action plan to this group. This requires that decision makers have the
authority to delegate power, and if so that they agree to abide by whatever the group comes up with
at the end of the process, although they will naturally be constrained by national and international
legal frameworks. This requires a high degree of trust. It also requires that stakeholders have good
internal communication so that their delegates have the mandate to speak for the members of their
organisations. Such processes tend to take a long time, especially if there is a desire to achieve full
consensus, and require major investments of time. If they succeed, such processes have the potential
to have a high degree of legitimacy and greatly reduce conflicts. They have so far only been applied
in the less conflictive context of bear management in Bulgaria and Croatia (Bath 2009).
A key challenge for running such processes for large carnivores concerns scale. The need to
coordinate manage at the population scale is now well recognized (Linnell et al. 2008; Linnell &
Boitani 2012) and almost always requires coordination of management between different
jurisdictional units, be they autonomous regions, federal states or countries. While planning on these
scales is essential for the long term survival of large carnivores, and to effectively deal with many to
the material and practical conflicts, it poses challenges for widespread participation. There will be a
need to experiment with new approaches to integrate stakeholders into these processes.
This form of collaborative management has become quite common in natural resource management
and wildlife management (Decker et al. 2000; Borrini-Feyerabend et al. 2004; Zachrisson 2004)
although it has not yet been formally used within a large carnivore management context. In its
classical sense co-management involves making decisions via a committee that consists of
representatives of the authorities that hold formal power and representatives of some of the main
stakeholders. Scientists or other external experts may also be included as members of the
committees or called upon as external advisors. This committee is then delegated the authority to
make management decisions. The fact that these committees are small and meet regularly over
prolonged periods permits the development of trust, mutual understanding and co-learning, and
have shown themselves to be especially valuable in cases involving indigenous peoples and natural
resource management. In many ways co-management represents a formalized perpetuation of
participatory action planning, although the frames tend to be set over long time scales, with annual
decisions being taken on things like harvest quotas. The model has great potential for wider use.
10 Key elements of stakeholder engagement and public participation
10.1 Advantages and disadvantages
Although the body of knowledge on such processes is largely experience based, the literature on
public participation consistently contains very similar lists of claimed advantages and disadvantages
of participatory processes. These can be summarized as:
Benefits for democratic society, citizenship and equity:
• More relevant stakeholders to be included in decisions that affect them.
• May increase trust in decisions and civil society if transparent and considering conflicting claims
• Can empower stakeholders through the co-generation of knowledge.
• Increase likelihood that decisions are perceived to be holistic and fair accounting for a diversity of
values and needs, recognising complexity.
• May promote social learning.
• New relationships, building on existing relationships and transforming adversial relationships as
individuals to learn about others’ trustworthiness and learn to appreciate the legitimacy of each
Benefits for the quality and durability of decisions:
• Enables interventions and technologies better adapted to local sociocultural and environmental
• May enhance rate of adoption and diffusion among target groups
• Meet local needs and priorities.
• Make research more robust, providing higher quality information input.
• Higher quality decisions, anticipating and ameliorating unexpected outcomes.
• Sense of ownership over process and outcomes.
• Long-term support and active implementation of decisions might be enhanced.
• Costly in time and resources in short to medium term.
• Difficult to apply at large scales.
• There may be risks of democratic deficits if processes are dominated by some powerful lobby
groups, and it is hard to involve the wider public who are also stakeholders.
• May lead to a reduction in the use of scientific knowledge.
• May be outcome deficits (from an environmental point of view) due to the nature of compromises.
10.2 Characteristics of a good process
There are many different methodological approaches that vary widely in format, from the very
structured to the very open and unstructured (Owen 2008; UNEP 2007a,b). However they have a
number of things in common. Based on the experience of many practitioners it is possible to identify
a set of criteria that describe a good participatory process (Bouwma et al. 2010b; Webler et al. 2001;
Sidaway 2005; Maser & Pollio 2012).
• Managing expectations so that goals are realistic. A central issue here lies in being very open about
how much influence the process can have and about what legal or policy constraints are imposed on
the group. It is also often pointed out that the biological and ecological constraints on the species or
ecosystems being discussed need to be clearly identified.
• Ensuring popular legitimacy which requires that stakeholder representatives should be empowered
by their constituents to negotiate on their behalf.
• The process should facilitate a broad and open dialogue which allows ideologies and values to be
openly communicated. However, the focus should be very much on exploring common interests
rather than divergent positions.
• The process should be fair, giving all participants an equal chance to speak, and conducted in a
manner that allows trust to develop and dignity to be maintained.
• The process needs clear leadership with trusted and experienced facilitators.
10.3 Consensus vs consent
The ideal goal of any participatory process is to achieve full consensus where all participants agree on
the final product (Sidaway 2005). Such consensus documents are very powerful tools and reflect a
good outcome from an effective process. While this can be realistically achieved in some cases (Bath
2009) there are many cases where it may not be possible to reach it. This concerns cases where the
issues being discussed touch onto some fundamental values that participants are not willing to
compromise on or negotiate. It may also occur in processes where one or more participants are
unwilling to compromise for strategic reasons because they feel that they can actually “win” outright
if they keep their veto position. While consensus should be hoped for in any process, failure to reach
it does not reflect a failure of the process. Other outcomes such as near consensus where areas of
dissent are explicitly mentioned are also valuable. In fact, there is a large body of literature which
argues that consensus may not even be such a desirable goal (e.g. Hiedanpää 2005; Niemelä et al.
2005; McShane et al. 2011; Peterson et al. 2004, 2005). These authors argue that the most important
goal of a process is to provide mutual insight between different stakeholders’ values and interests.
They argue that it is more important for these views to be presented clearly and honestly, and if
there is real disagreement that it is better to have this in the open rather than to focus on achieving
an illusion of agreement on things that different stakeholders don’t really agree on. These argument
based approaches seek to make the necessary compromises and trade-offs associated with any
decision making process explicit and open (Cuppen 2012). It is still possible for stakeholders to
accept the outcome of a process that they perceive as having been fair and legitimate even if they
don’t agree with all of the content. This is termed informed consent. When the process is regarded as
being as important as the goal these differences may seem somewhat academic. The point is
however that it is important to be prepared for different outcomes depending on each process as it
is not ever possible to know in advance where a given process will end up. If it was, then there would
be no need for a participatory process.
10.4 When it doesn’t work
There are some conflict situations that are unsuited to participatory approaches. These include
conflicts that involve large scales where it is difficult to gather the affected stakeholders, in cases
where stakeholders do not want to take part, or in cases where some very fundamental values are at
stake. The literature also contains examples where badly run processes actually make the conflicts
worse (Rauschmayer et al. 2009). The implication is that participation is not a magic bullet for all
conflicts (Young et al. 2013). Some conflicts may remain chronic or unresolvable and will require
clear top-down decision making (Redpath et al. 2013). Some stakeholder processes have actually led
to clear expressions of a need for external decision makers to make clear decisions in order to get
past an impasse (Andersen et al. 2004).In such cases it may be possible to lower the level of conflict
to acceptable levels through dialogue and discussion, and at least channel the conflict into
acceptable levels (Peterson et al. 2004).
The basic conclusion from this review is one of diversity. The ecological situation and conservation
status of large carnivore populations is diverse across Europe, from critically endangered populations
to large and robust ones. All these populations are exposed to a wide diversity of threats, although
there is a growing realization that low social acceptance and / or poor institutional capacity are
emerging as key issues. The relationships the large carnivores have with the human communities
with which they share space are also highly diverse. In some contexts the relationship is calm and
conflicts basically involve minor issues of occasional material damage. In other contexts conflicts are
extreme, touching on a range of social and political issues. Because of this diversity of situation there
is obviously no “one-size-fits-all” solution. Neither are there any “magic bullets”. There are a range of
potential actions and strategies that can be taken to prevent, resolve, reduce or manage conflicts.
These actions include some technical measures that can be taken, while others are more procedural.
Among these is a need to expand the scale of management planning to embrace the population
level, which almost always requires some form of transboundary, multi-jurisdictional approach. For
all actions there are many benefits to be gained from ensuring that a diversity of stakeholders are
involved in the actions. The ways of engaging with stakeholders are diverse and need to be tailored
to the specific situation. However, the extent to which large carnivore conservation touches onto
some deeply held values in some contexts implies that some conflicts are likely to remain no matter
what is attempted. Overall the main objective to which we can hope to aspire is tolerance; tolerance
for the presence of carnivores, mutual tolerance for diverse human values, and tolerance for a
diversity of locally adapted ways to build a sustainable relationship between and among people,
institutions and large carnivores.
Acknowledgements: Many people have provided valuable input to various drafts of this
report. From the stakeholder side I would like to thank Gabor von Bethlenfalvy, Anne Ollila, Eva-Lisa
Myntti, Yves Lecocq, Angus Middleton, Tania Runge, Tamas Marghescu, Luis Suarez, Amelie Villette,
Delphine Dupeux, and Simo Tianinen for input received in writing and during workshop discussions.
My colleagues at the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, the Large Carnivore Initiative for
Europe and other cooperation partners have provided invaluable discussions over the years which
have allowed this review to be possible. I would especially like to thank the following for commenting
directly onto various aspects of this report; Guillaume Chapron, Djuro Huber, Petra Kaczensky, Luigi
Boitani, Sabina Nowak, Valeria Salvatori, Aleksandra Majic, Jenny Glikman, Aleksander Trajce, Jørn
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