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Rethinking aversion conditioning to reduce conflicts of interest between pastoralism and wolf conservation

Hechtel-Eksel pack wolves (videostill INBO-ANB)
Hechtel-Eksel pack wolves (videostill INBO-ANB)


Grey wolves (Canis lupus) have recently recolonized large parts of western Europe, where they had been extinct for over a century. Although this is considered a conservation success, it has also led to livestock depredation as an unwanted side-effect. Presently, there are no methods to sustainably reduce depredation in vast pastoral areas where livestock fencing is not feasible or ecologically desirable, which threatens the coexistence of wolves and pastoralism.

The project proposes to test the effectiveness of aversion conditioning in wild wolves to prevent sheep depredation. Using those principles, we intend to test and develop new methods that can be used in various pastoral regions across Europe and that can condition free ranging wolves to (i) avoid cues that could be equipped on sheep and (ii) to avoid sheep prey because of condition food aversion and/or (iii) to avoid sheep wearing an aversive cover. Autonomous conditioning traps will be dispatched around pastures and inside wolf pack territories and monitored by camera traps. Those conditioning traps should allow wolf self-delivery punishment and would provide self- conditioning experience.

If efficient, such measures could help preventing depredation where current methods either conflict with habitat connectivity, fail, or need support.
Status Running
Actual start/end date 01/12/2020 - 30/11/2024


INBO Research theme(s)

  • Protected nature
  • Nature & society
  • Agriculture
  • Wildlife management