Admired by some, hated by others, the wolf is an animal that has been shrouded in mystery and myth throughout history. Although often seen as a rare animal, the Asturian authorities took the decision on Friday to try and reduce their numbers by legalising the controlled hunting of them. Up until Friday, wolves, as well as bears, were a protected animal in Spain.
The canis lupus signatus, a species native to the Iberian Peninsula, has been growing in numbers in the region of Asturias, and with the increase in population, a lack of land to support them has arisen. This has caused them to roam southwards onto the land of farmers and kill livestock.
With no natural predator, the measures taken to protect the farmers' livestock have been deemed necessary, a fact recognised even by The Foundation for the Protection of Wild Animals.
Subsidy payments are given to farmers whose livestock has been killed by wolves, but these are, according to them, "scarce and often arrive late". Furthermore, it is becoming increasingly difficult to prove that damage to livestock has actually been caused by wolves, with some farmers resorting to surveillance cameras to prove the cause of the unexplained livestock deaths.
Asturias authorities insist that the culling will not be widespread, and instead will only be carried out "under exceptional circumstances, where there is a notable elevation in damage caused by wolves".
The decision has not been free from opposition. The WWF has protested the decision, naming it "indiscriminate, backwards and illegal", and they have requested for the ruling to be rescinded. The petition against the action, created by the WWF, already has more than 12,500 signatures, and has been sent directly to Javier Fernández, the president of the Asturias region.
Despite the protests, wolf numbers and sightings have been increasing. They have been spotted just a few kilometres north of Madrid and are also spreading westwards towards Castilla La Mancha and northern Extremadura; it is thought that at this rate, the wolves could once again return to the Mediterranean coastline.