Italian city council appeals for help as wolves invade urban areas

Wolves are thriving as farmland around the Tuscan city of Siena as allowed to revert to scrubland that attracts their prey
Wolves are thriving as farmland around the Tuscan city of Siena as allowed to revert to scrubland that attracts their prey - alessandro baldetti/iStockphoto
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Its symbol is the she-wolf of Roman legend, but an Italian town renowned for its art and gastronomy is being menaced by real-life wolves.

There has been an increasing number of sightings on the outskirts of Siena, some 135 miles (220 kilometres) north of Rome, as the creatures nonchalantly pad along suburban streets.

The most recent sighting was in late January when a pair was spotted at Porta Camollia, on the northern edge of the Tuscan city.

They were seen by a motorist who did not manage to photograph them with his mobile phone. But he notified the authorities and officials found wolf excrement at the scene.

Pets, particularly cats, have been going missing and the mangled remains of roe deer – a favourite prey of wolves in Italy – have been found in nearby countryside.


The sightings occurred a few miles from the centre of the city, which boasts several she-wolf statues in stone and bronze.

Siena’s emblem is similar to the symbol of Rome: a she-wolf suckling the infant twins Romulus and Remus. The two symbols are related, according to legend, as when Romulus murdered Remus, Remus’s sons Aschio and Senio fled Rome in fear for their lives and Senio founded Siena.

The situation has caused such concern that the city council this week issued an appeal for help to Tuscany’s regional government and the Higher Institute for Environmental Protection and Research, a national body.

The appeal was written by Nicoletta Fabio, the mayor, and Barbara Magi, the councillor responsible for the environment.

“Day by day, there is increasing alarm among residents,” the mayor said in her letter.

She said she was aware that wolves were a protected species under EU legislation but added that she was concerned for public safety.

One factor contributing to the apex predators’ presence is the fact that much agricultural land on the outskirts of Siena is no longer farmed.


It has reverted to scrubland, which provides a habitat for roe deer and wild boar and attracts the wolves, the mayor said.

The council wants to embark on a programme of clearing the abandoned land of scrub in collaboration with a national agricultural association, Coldiretti.

Residents have also been told to keep their pets indoors at night and ensure they do not leave out food waste that could attract wolves.

Trapping or shooting the wolves is not an option.

“There are not just Italian laws but European laws which at the moment prohibit us from capturing the wolves so there’s not much we can do,” Ms Magi told La Gazzetta di Siena, a local newspaper.

“The council does not have much power when it comes to this problem. We are urging people to show the utmost caution.”


Many farmers in Tuscany say they are at their wits’ end as the number of attacks on their livestock increases.

Last month, farmer Elia Sardone found two of his sheep slaughtered on his farm near the town of Pienza, south of Siena.

“It happened in broad daylight, at around 9am, just 150 metres from a road,” he said. “As soon as I opened the gate to let the animals out I saw there had been an attack.

The predator had killed two sheep while others were so terrified that they had run off. It’s really becoming a problem. Apart from the damage to farmers, it’s becoming a real threat to people’s safety.”

As wolf numbers bounce back across Europe, the European Commission announced in December that it is considering whether to change the conservation status of the animal from “strictly protected” to “protected”.

Protection for wolves was established in 1979. Since then the species has thrived and the number of attacks on livestock has soared.


“The comeback of wolves is good news for biodiversity in Europe. But the concentration of wolf packs in some European regions has become a real danger, especially for livestock.

“To manage critical wolf concentrations more actively, local authorities have been asking for more flexibility,” said Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the European Commission, who lost  Dolly, her pony, to a wolf attack on her family’s rural property in northern Germany.

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