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Distribution of large carnivores in Europe 2012 - 2016: Distribution maps for Brown bear, Eurasian lynx, Grey wolf, and Wolverine

Cite this dataset

Kaczensky, Petra et al. (2021). Distribution of large carnivores in Europe 2012 - 2016: Distribution maps for Brown bear, Eurasian lynx, Grey wolf, and Wolverine [Dataset]. Dryad.


Regular assessments of species’ status are an essential component of conservation planning and adaptive management. They allow the progress of past or ongoing conservation actions to be evaluated and can be used to redirect and prioritise future conservation actions. Most countries perform periodic assessments for their own national adaptive management procedures or national red lists. Furthermore, the countries of the European Union have to report on the status of all species listed on the directives of the Habitats Directive every 6 years as part of their obligations under Article 17. However, these national level assessments are often made using non-standardised procedures and do not always adequately reflect the biological units (i.e. the populations) which are needed for ecologically meaningful assessments.

Since the early 2000’s the Large Carnivore Initiative for Europe (a Specialist Group of the IUCN’s Species Survival Commission) has been coordinating periodic surveys of the status of large carnivores across Europe (e.g. von Arx et al. 2004; Salvatori & Linnell 2005, Kaczensky et al. 2013). These have covered the Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx), the wolf (Canis lupus), the brown bear (Ursus arctos) and the wolverine (Gulo gulo). These surveys involve the contributions of the best available experts and sources of information. While the underlying data quality and field methodology varies widely across Europe, these coordinated assessments do their best to integrate the diverse data in a comparable manner and make the differences transparent. They also endeavour to conduct the assessments on the most important scales. This includes the continental scale (all countries except for Russia, Belarus, Moldova and the parts of Ukraine outside the Carpathian mountain range), the scale of the EU 28 (where the Habitats Directive operates) and of the biological populations which reflect the scale at which ecological processes occur (Linnell et al. 2008). In this way, the independent LCIE assessments provide a valuable complement to the ongoing national processes.

Our last assessments covered the period 2006-2011 (Kaczensky et al. 2013; Chapron et al. 2014). The current assessment is mainly based on the period 2012-2016 and broadly follows the same methodology. The population definitions used in this report broadly follow those proposed in Linnell et al. (2008) and described in Kaczensky et al. (2013). However, as these were always intended to be dynamic definitions there have been a few small changes, namely the upgrading of the lynx in the Harz mountains to being a population (formerly they were viewed as an “occurrence”), and the exclusion of the wolves in the Sierra Morena mountains of southern Spain because of their regional extinction. 

Additional information on issues related to large carnivore status assessment is available in other reports. For example, Linnell & Cretois (2018) summarise data on large carnivore depredation on livestock, Linnell (2013) summarises data on social conflicts associated with large carnivore recovery, and Boitani et al. (2015) summarises key actions required to address the main threats facing large carnivores in Europe.


  • Boitani, L., F. Alvarez, O. Anders, H. Andren, E. Avanzinelli, V. Balys, J. C. Blanco, U. Breitenmoser, G. Chapron, P. Ciucci, A. Dutsov, C. Groff, D. Huber, O. Ionescu, F. Knauer, I. Kojola, J. Kubala, M. Kutal, J. Linnell, A. Majic, P. Mannil, R. Manz, F. Marucco, D. Melovski, A. Molinari, H. Norberg, S. Nowak, J. Ozolins, S. Palazon, H. Potocnik, P.-Y. Quenette, I. Reinhardt, R. Rigg, N. Selva, A. Sergiel, M. Shkvyria, J. Swenson, A. Trajce, M. Von Arx, M. Wolfl, U. Wotschikowsky, D. Zlatanova, 2015. Key actions for Large Carnivore populations in Europe. Institute of Applied Ecology (Rome, Italy). Report to DG Environment, European Commission, Bruxelles. Contract no. 07.0307/2013/654446/SER/B3
  • Chapron, G., Kaczensky, P., Linnell, J.D.C., von Arx, M., Huber, D., Andrén, H., López-Bao, J.V., Adamec, M., Álvares, F., Anders, O., Balčiauskas, L., Balys, V., Bedő, P., Bego, F., Blanco, J.C., Breitenmoser, U., Brøseth, H., Bufka, L., Bunikyte, R., Ciucci, P., Dutsov, A., Engleder, T., Fuxjäger, C., Groff, C., Holmala, K., Hoxha, B., Iliopoulos, Y., Ionescu, O., Jeremić, J., Jerina, K., Kluth, G., Knauer, F., Kojola, I., Kos, I., Krofel, M., Kubala, J., Kunovac, S., Kusak, J., Kutal, M., Liberg, O., Majić, A., Männil, P., Manz, R., Marboutin, E., Marucco, F., Melovski, D., Mersini, K., Mertzanis, Y., Mysłajek, R.W., Nowak, S., Odden, J., Ozolins, J., Palomero, G., Paunović, M., Persson, J., Potočnik, H., Quenette, P.-Y., Rauer, G., Reinhardt, I., Rigg, R., Ryser, A., Salvatori, V., Skrbinšek, T., Stojanov, A., Swenson, J.E., Szemethy, L., Trajçe, A., Tsingarska[1]Sedefcheva, E., Váňa, M., Veeroja, R., Wabakken, P., Wölfl, M., Wölfl, S., Zimmermann, F., Zlatanova, D. & Boitani, L. 2014. Recovery of large carnivores in Europe’s modern human-dominated landscapes. Science 346(6216): 1517-1519.
  • Kaczensky, P., Chapron, G., Von Arx, M., Huber, D., Andrén, H. & Linnell, J. 2013. Status, management and distribution of large carnivores - bear, lynx, wolf and wolverine - in Europe. Istituto di Ecologia Applicata, Rome, Italy.
  • Linnell, J.D.C., Cretois, B., 2018. Research for AGRI Committee – The revival of wolves and other large predators and its impact on farmers and their livelihood in rural regions of Europe. Research for AGRI Committee – The revival of wolves and other large predators and its impact on farmers and their livelihood in rural regions of Europe, European Parliament, Policy Department for Structural and Cohesion Policies, Brussels.
  • Linnell, J.D.C. 2013. From conflict to coexistence: insights from multi-disciplinary research into the relationships between people, large carnivores and institutions. Istituto di Ecologia Applicata, Rome.
  • Linnell, J.D.C., Salvatori, V. & Boitani, L. 2008. Guidelines for population level management plans for large carnivores in Europe. A Large Carnivore Initiative for Europe report prepared for the European Commission (contract 070501/2005/424162/MAR/B2).
  • Salvatori, V. & Linnell, J.D.C. 2005. Report on the conservation status and threats for wolf (Canis lupus) in Europe. Council of Europe Report T-PVS/Inf (2005) 16.
  • von Arx, M., Breitenmoser-Würsten, C., Zimmermann, F. & Breitenmoser, U. 2004. Status and conservation of the Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) in Europe in 2001. KORA Report 19e: 1- 330.


The mapping approach follows the methods described in Chapron et al. (2014) and Kaczensky et al. (2013). It updates the published Species Online Layers (SPOIS) to the period 2012-2016.

In short, large carnivore presence was mapped at a 10x10 km ETRS89-LAEA Europe grid scale. This grid is widely used for the Flora-Fauna-Habitat reporting by the European Union (EU) and can be downloaded at: 

The map encompasses the EU countries plus the non-EU Balkan states, Switzerland, Norway, and the Carpathian region of Ukraine. Presence in a grid cell was ideally mapped based on carnivore presence and frequency in a cell resulting in:

  • 1 = Permanent (presence confirmed in >= 3 years in the last 5 years OR in >50% of the time OR reproduction confirmed within the last 3 years)
  • 3 = Sporadic (highly fluctuating presence) (presence confirmed in <3 years in the last 5 years OR in <50% of the time)
  • We subsequently include: i) the category “present” when there is no doubt about the species presence in the country, but where additional information is missing & ii) the category “presence uncertain” where evidence is weak that large carnivore presence consists of more than very rare vagrants

Where grid cells have portions in more than one country and cells were assigned different values in neighbouring countries; the “disputed” cell was always given the “higher” presence value; that is a cell categorized as “sporadic” by one and “permanent” by the country was categorized as “permanent”.

To assess the quality of carnivore signs we used the SCALP criteria developed for the standardized monitoring of Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) in the Alps (Molinari-Jobin et al. 2012):

  • Category 1 (C1): “Hard facts”, verified and unchallenged large carnivore presence signs (e.g. dead animals, DNA, verified camera trap images);
  • Category 2 (C2): Large carnivore presence signs controlled and confirmed by a large carnivore expert (e.g. trained member of the network), which requires documentation of large carnivore signs; and
  • Category 3 (C3): Unconfirmed category 2 large carnivore presence signs and all presence signs such as sightings and calls which, if not additionally documented, cannot be verified
  • We subsequently include the category “soft” which refers to presence large carnivore presence based on interview, questionnaires, and media coverage

For additional details please also see the attached pdf files for each of the species datasets.

Usage notes

The data available consists of shapefiles at a 10 x 10 km resolution compiled for the period 2012-2016 for the Large Carnivore Initiative of Europe IUCN Specialist Group and for the IUCN Red List Assessment. The zip files available are for four species and their distribution in Europe (for further details see also attached report files for each species):

  • Brown bear (Ursus arctos)
  • Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx)
  • Grey wolf (Canis lupus)
  • Wolverine (Gulo gulo)