Wildlife experts are calling for the golden jackal to be classified as a native European species.
The calls come as the golden jackal continues its unnoticed expansion into Western and Northern Europe from its historical base in the Balkans.
In 2015 golden jackals, which are mainly found in North Africa, the Middle-East and the Indian subcontinent, were recorded in Denmark and the Netherlands, while individuals have been seen in the Baltic States since 2011.
This migration has prompted fears that the golden jackals could have a negative impact on local wildlife as well as potentially preying upon livestock.
As a consequence, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have classified golden jackals as an invasive, non-native species.
Wildlife researchers believe this is a mistake, citing genetic research as well as international legislation that states the term should only apply where a species – such as the raccoon in Germany – has been brought to an area by people.
“It’s a native European species and should be treated as such,” said Dr Miha Krofel of the Golden Jackal Informal Study Group.
But the legal status of the golden jackal in the 30 European countries in which it has been recorded varies enormously. It has full protection in countries such as Italy and Switzerland, while in Bulgaria and Romania animals are regularly shot.
The reasons behind the golden jackal’s expansion are unclear. However, the extermination of wolves, which prey upon jackals, from across many parts of Europe and the proliferation of open waste dumps in Eastern Europe – an abundant source of food – are thought to be key drivers.