Fears for wolf population after ‘catastrophic’ forest fire in Spain | Spain

The Spanish government has declared the Sierra de la Culebra mountain range in Zamora province a disaster area after a fire destroyed 30,000 hectares (74,000 acres) of woodland, raising fears for the future of the region. local wolf population.

The decision gives the region of Castilla y León immediate access to €2m (£1.7m) in economic recovery funds to help repair the damage caused by the worst fire of the decade, which has destroyed a vast expanse of the 600 km2 biosphere reserve in northwest Spain.

The fire started a week ago and spread rapidly, fanned by strong winds and unusually high temperatures for the season. More than 650 firefighters from across Spain battled to contain the blaze aided by planes and helicopters before it was finally brought under control on Sunday.

“The main problem now is soil erosion caused by wind and rain,” said WWF’s Luis Suárez. “It is fundamental that we stabilize the ground and restore the area in a way that makes it more fire resistant in the future, which involves sustainable activities such as traditional cattle grazing and responsible forest management.”

In addition to the loss of around 25,000 hectares of woodland, there are fears for the future of the local wolf population, one of the largest in Spain. The adults are thought to have escaped the flames, but the young were only a few weeks old and may not have survived.

“The females usually give birth in mid-May, so the cubs wouldn’t be very mobile,” Suárez said. “It’s highly unlikely that the females were able to get all the young out of the dens, but it’s too early to say for sure.”

The area is believed to be home to 10 wolf packs, each occupying their own vast territory, much of which has now been destroyed.

Zamora has been presented as a model for coexistence between farmers and wolves. A ban on hunting animals in northwest Spain, where most packs are concentrated, only came into force last month, despite opposition from right-wing lawmakers.

There are around 300 packs in Spain, each made up of up to eight wolves, the largest population in Western Europe.

The sierra is also home to large populations of deer, wild boar, mountain cats, otters and golden eagles. Observation towers have been built, giving visitors a rare opportunity to observe wolves in the wild.

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