Spanish wolves have turned more aggressive since laws were imposed to prevent the spread of mad cow disease in Europe, research has shown.
Before the rules brought in 15 years ago, Iberian wolves in Galicia, north-west Spain, mostly scavenged the abandoned carcasses of dead farm animals. That food source all but vanished in 2000 when it became illegal for farmers to leave dead ruminants to rot on their land. As a result, wolves are actively hunting dear, boar, and wild ponies — and increasingly attacking cattle.
The law was one measure introduced to curb the spread of the cattle brain disease bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). Known as “mad cow disease”, the lethal infection can be transmitted to humans and emerge as variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD).
Scientists who studied wolf diets before and after the ban found that carrion consumption had fallen by up to 67% among wolves in Galicia.
Conflict with farmers is making it more difficult for the wolves to co-exist with humans and threatening their conservation, according to the researchers writing in the journal Environmental Management.
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