Habitat modelling and estimation of potential territory numbers reveal where wolves may live in Germany

Foto: Wolf, Canis Lupus; Heiko Anders
Foto: Wolf, Canis Lupus; Heiko Anders

Germany potentially provides many suitable areas for grey wolf territories. This means that wolves may potentially settle down in large parts of the country where they were extinct until around the year 2000. It should be expected that they will disperse through other areas not delineated as suitable as well. These are the results of a study conducted by the Federal Documentation and Consultation Centre on Wolves (DBBW), the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW), the Technical University of Berlin, the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and the Research Institute for Wildlife Ecology (Vienna). The study was commissioned and published by the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation, Germany.

The results of the present study provide the German federal and state authorities and institutions responsible for handling wolf issues with the necessary information to adjust their measures in a forward-looking manner. They also provide a forecast of the potential for wolves to spread across Germany. Hence, it makes sense to prepare for the possible settlement of wolves in areas not yet populated by wolves. The study also recommends that effective measures to protect livestock from wolf attacks should be promoted and implemented now in order to prepare for and reduce attacks on livestock in a sustained manner.

Since the return of the wolf to Germany much information has been collected. On the basis of several wolf telemetry projects, patterns of the individual space use of wolves can be elucidated. Owing to the nationwide wolf monitoring, it is also known where the wolf territories in Germany are located since their first reappearance in 2000. Both sets of data make it possible to characterize habitat use of wolves with the help of data collected in Germany.

Using habitat modelling, results were extrapolated to the whole of Germany. This allowed the scientists to identify areas that are potentially suitable as wolf habitats and not yet occupied. In a second step, they estimated the possible number and spatial distribution of wolf territories in Germany. The statistical methods used for the habitat modelling correspond to the current state of the art of research in this area and are scientifically accepted procedures.

The results of the analysis show that wolves are able use large parts of the diverse German landscape. According to the results of the analyses now available, suitable habitat in Germany is available for about 700 to 1,400 territories – under the assumption that territory size is about 200 square kilometres. The results of the study are not intended to be a prediction of a target number for a Germany-wide population development, they merely show the potential for possible wolf territory distribution in Germany.


Kramer-Schadt S, Wenzler M, Gras P, Knauer F (2020): Habitatmodellierung und Abschätzung der potenziellen Anzahl von Wolfsterritorien in Deutschland. Dokumentations- und Beratungsstelle des Bundes zum Thema Wolf [Auftragnehmer]. BfN-Skripten 556. Bonn (Bundesamt für Naturschutz).




Leibniz-Institut for Zoo- and Wildlife REsearch (IZW)
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Prof. Dr. Stephanie Kramer-Schadt

Head of departement Ecological Dynamics

E-Mail. kramer@izw-berlin.de

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Steven Seet

Head of science communicatons

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