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It's a carnivore comeback in Europe

Eurasian lynx - Europe's largest cat.
[Copyright: Miha Krofel, Slovenia]

Big carnivores like brown bears and wolverines used to be scarce in Europe, but these top-of-the-food-chain animals are becoming more common throughout the continent. That's what Guillaume Chapron of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and his fellow scientists found out when they studied reports of these animals from European countries. At least one-third of Europe's land holds some kind of large carnivore like the brown bear, the Eurasian lynx, the grey wolf or the wolverine, they write in 19 December issue of Science. And for the most part, these animals aren't just a few lonely survivors living in protected areas. They live in groups of at least hundreds--sometimes thousands--and most of them live on land that hasn't been specially set aside just for wildlife. In the past, people have thought of big carnivores as either scary or harmful, and didn't do too much to protect these animals. But attitudes toward these animals are changing. Fewer people are hunting them in Europe, for instance, and many European countries have joined together to make laws that protect the animals. At the same time, more Europeans have moved from farms and the countryside to cities over the past 150 years. That move has left more wild space for carnivores as well.

Chapron and the others say their study shows that people and big carnivores can live together on a crowded continent. They are optimistic that we can learn to share the land with these animals in other places around the world, from North America to Africa, where big carnivores need protection from extinction.