Wolves are on annex V of the Habitats Directive in many of the EU countries in eastern Europe which permits carefully regulated hunting as long as it does not jeopardise their favourable conservation status. Currently there is no evidence that these legal harvests per se pose a direct threat to any European wolf population's conservation, although it does depend entirely on the size of the quota. The quota also requires that countries have access to good census or monitoring data and that decision makers utilise the best available data when setting quotas. In some countries there is often a high degree of uncertainity about both the data quality and the decision making process, while in others the process is both detailed and transparent.
Slovakia has just set a quota of 70 wolves for the coming hunting season, which is a slight reduction on previous years and is judged to be sustainable according to local experts. Monitoring data, which is becoming increasingly robust, indicates that the wolf population is doing well. There therefore appears to be no obious conflict between the quota and the ongoing conservation of wolves in Slovakia. However, following the decision there has been heated social media discussions with many voices advocating a zero quota, but not providing any data to support this change in policy. Such discussions are becoming increasingly common across Europe where technical science-based discussions about sustainable quotas are being transformed into principled discussions about whether hunting of carnivores should be conducted at all. Unfortunately the debates are often conducted in very impolite and emotional ways that confound science and values. The management of large carnivores in Europe is a highly complex activity that will inevitably require compromises between different stakeholder groups with radically different desires and preferences. Constructive long term solutions to these challenges require that different stakeholders engage with each other in constructive ways that respect social norms. While we direct a lot of focus onto the coexistence of large carnivores and humans, such controversies illustrate that the greatest emerging challenge is to facilitate the coexistence of different stakeholders with different views about how cranivores should be managed.
More information available from the Slovak Wildlife Society. and the Slovakian State Nature Conservancy