- The golden jackal is a canid, close to wolves and foxes.
- Historically present in Asia, the Middle East and Eastern Europe, it is increasingly migrating north.
- Its presence has been noted in Deux-Sêvres, Finistère and Loire-Atlantique in 2023.
It is a little reminiscent of a fox, a little like a wolf, but is neither. The golden jackal has made an unprecedented appearance in several departments in recent months. Enough to intrigue the inhabitants. 20 Minutes takesstock of the lifestyle of this largely unknown mammal in France, thanks to information from the French Office for Biodiversity (OFB), charged by the State to centralize data on the species.
What does it look like?
The golden jackal is a canid, a cousin of dogs, wolves and foxes. "With a weight of 7 to 17 kg and a height at the withers of 45-50 cm, the golden jackal is of an intermediate size between the wolf and the fox," says the French Office of Biodiversity. Its ears are slightly pointed, its tail short and bushy. Its name is linked to the coppery reflections of its coat.
Where does he live?
It is present over a wide range from southern mainland Asia (Vietnam, Thailand) to Europe, via India, the Middle East and Turkey. In Europe, its colonization was for a long time limited to the Balkan region. But since the 1960s, the species has begun a second phase of colonization to the west and north where isolated individuals have been observed "several hundred km from known population nuclei". The species was detected in the 1980s in Italy and Austria, then in the 1990s in eastern Germany, since 2011 in Switzerland and since 2017 in France.
What does he eat?
It belongs to the family of carnivores but it is an opportunistic omnivore that can feed on eggs, insects, reptiles, amphibians and fruits. A peculiarity that makes it compete with the fox. His favorite diet, however, remains meat, especially rabbits. His social organization "allows him to hunt prey of his size" but he is more interested in the carcasses of wild or domestic animals. It can go several days without drinking.
How does he live?
The golden jackal usually lives in pairs or family groups, with which it is "faithful". The latest observations in France, however, evoke the presence of an isolated individual, "without allowing to detect the establishment of a family group or evidence of reproduction". Easy to adapt, the canid likes wetlands, marshes and river banks. On the other hand, it avoids areas with the presence of wolves and areas affected by heavy snow cover.
Where has it been observed in France?
Since 2017, the punctual presence of the golden jackal has been authenticated, photo and sometimes videos in support, in Haute-Savoie, in Deux-Sèvres, Bouches-du-Rhône, Essonne, Finistère and, recently, in Loire-Atlantique, near Saint-Nazaire, at the end of April. In some areas, the observations of a single adult individual have been repeated over several months or even years. "In Germany and Italy, the collection of several data in the same sector has often resulted in the establishment of the species in the long term," notes the OFB. As with the wolf, this movement of the jackal can be done by dispersing individuals in search of a sexual partner. It is also a sign of an evolution of its original environment, probably in connection with urbanization.
Is it dangerous for humans?
Very discreet, the golden jackal is extremely difficult to observe. However, he would not be "bothered by human presence". "No attack on humans has been recorded to date," says the OFB. This canid has also not been officially involved in attacks on farm animals in France. On the other hand, he is suspected of having attacked sheep in Italy and Germany.
Is it protected?
Based on a genetic study, the European Commission concluded in 2016 that the golden jackal "cannot be considered an alien species introduced by humans". This species is therefore "part of the European natural heritage" and as such, is listed in Annex V of the Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC which requires Member States to ensure that their populations are maintained at a favourable conservation status. However, it is not classified on the list of protected species. In France, the jackal cannot be hunted or trapped, explains the OFB. In Greece, it benefits from a conservation plan.
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