Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Three wolves, three shepherds

Friday, October 25th, 2019
[photo: wolf in sheep’s clothing, free and rebellious. Advert for a restaurant specialising in sheep’s cheese in Rocca Calascio, Gran Sasso, Italy

Wolf in sheep’s clothing, free and rebellious. Advert for a restaurant specialising in sheep’s cheese in Rocca Calascio, Abruzzo, Italy

 

Advocates of hard rewilding say that in Abruzzo wolves and sheep live happily together. But do they? It all depends. As in the Pyrenees, shepherds’ experiences vary: some are happier than others. Paulo was once attacked by wolves. Antonio and Lucia suffer heavy losses. But Giulio runs a very successful farm. (more…)

Not as peaceful as it seems

Saturday, July 13th, 2019
Port de Saleix, at 1800m above sea level on the GR10, looking east towards Saleix

Port de Saleix, at 1800m above sea level on the GR10 between Aulus and Marc, looking east

 

Two hours hard walking from the village of Saleix, Ariège, the rendezvous for the latest meeting of the anti-bear ASPAP was not an obvious choice. But as Philippe Lacube, one of the historic leaders of the movement and now President of the Ariège Chamber of Agriculture, explained:

“We could have gone to the streets of Foix or Toulouse. We preferred being in our mountains. We preferred being on our soil, at home; because, I think, it is this land we need to retake control of.”

These farmers, shepherds, mayors and supporters have had enough and believe the French state is not listening.

(more…)

Rewilding: with sheep, by hunters

Thursday, May 16th, 2019
Mouflon

Mouflon. The principal distinguishing characteristic of the male mouflon is its long, curved horns (in females the horns are absent or smaller) © Laurence Terminet

 

The sheep isn’t the first species that comes to mind when I think of ‘rewilding’. It seems unlikely that the idea of rewilding with sheep will warm George Monbiot’s heart 😉, given his views on the animal’s ecological hoofprint. But an ancient variety of sheep, the mouflon, present in the French Pyrenees in the Pleistocene, has been reintroduced: by hunters who were not in the least interested in the idea of rewilding. Indeed, they started the project in 1957 before the term ‘rewilding’ even existed. Yet, if there were more mouflons, they could become a food resource for the more charismatic brown bears and wolves currently preying on domestic flocks. Even shepherds – traditionally opponents of rewilding – might find some solace. (more…)

The once and future king?

Thursday, May 2nd, 2019

Bear cub [photo: DJO photo]

 

For anyone interested in the cultural side of rewilding, I can recommend Michel Pastoureau’s excellent book.[1] It charts the Western European perception of bears from the earliest records to the present. A renowned French historian, Pastoureau has written on heraldry, animals and, notably, on colours. But the strength of his book on bears is its focus on the how the animal fell from grace.

His thesis is that when the Christian Church started to expand into northern Europe, it found itself confronted with powerful pagan bear cults. The elimination of the cults took nearly a millennium, culminating in the 13th century when the king of the forest was symbolically replaced by the king of the jungle: the lion. (more…)

How dangerous are wild boar? Notes from France

Tuesday, November 27th, 2018
Young wild boar also known as humbugs © Laurence Terminet

Young wild boar also known as humbugs © Laurence Terminet

The National Trust has recently announced that it intends to kill the wild boars living on its Stourhead estate because of public safety fears. Yet, rewilding advocates claim that they are not dangerous. With a wild boar population of 1635 in the Forest of Dean, another concentration in the Weald and sightings all over Great Britain, the debate is likely to continue.

So how dangerous are wild boar? In Britain there are a few thousand; in France we have two million of them.  Here in France, despite the human fatalities – almost exclusively hunting and road traffic accidents – despite their potential for virus transmission, despite the crop damage, they are considered no more dangerous than large dogs. Why?

Extract from work in progress The Implausible Rewilding of the Pyrenees: Notes for Britain

Wild boar are already half-way up the gangplank of the Ark of British rewilding. Although beavers are currently making a bid for the lead, wild boars have already shouldered their way past lynx and wolves.

There are two million wild boar in France, a figure that has been increasing, partly as a result of milder winters. [source] With so many around, walkers regularly come across signs of them: hoofprints in mud; grass grubbed up for edible roots; a missing patch of bark on trees where they have rubbed to get rid of parasites. Hiking in forest, I am sometimes startled by a rustling in the undergrowth. It is followed by an offended grunt and then a wild crashing as the boar storms away, breaking through fallen branches. The cascade of sound increases as birds take to the wing and repeat the alarm. But I’ve only actually seen wild boar close too occasionally, always at dusk, when they are out searching for their evening meal. The last time, illuminated by my car headlights, a big sow was crossing the road. She was followed by three smaller females and a string of youngsters, identifiable by their horizontal brown and gold stripes, bobbing along behind. Difficult to say how many youngsters, six-seven-eight; I braked as they disappeared into a vineyard. Seeing them innocently crossing the road added a touch of magic to my evening, particularly as I managed to brake early enough for them to get away. (more…)

Global warning from the Pyrenees

Saturday, September 1st, 2018
The Ossoue glacier (on the East side of Vignemale) is melting rapidly

The Ossoue glacier (on the East side of Vignemale) is melting rapidly. Click to enlarge photo.

 

I climbed the Pique longue du Vignemale (3298m) and its little brother, Petit Vignemale (3032m), with two friends this week. When I arrived home, I compared the pictures taken from the Petit Vignemale with those I took 13 years ago when I was walking the GR10. The Ossoue glacier is melting rapidly and is now a hundred metres shorter (click on photo to enlarge).

The top photo was taken in July 2005, with the arrow showing a group of walkers just about to descend the tongue of the glacier (grey). The second photo was taken on 29 August 2018. There is more snow after the hard winter of 2017/2018 but the glacier has gone.

Another view of the Ossoue glacier, taken the next day from the Lac des Gentianes. The Bayssellance hostel, where we stayed for two nights, is below the pass, slightly to the right. The Petit Vignemale is the white rock behind the lake; the Pique longue is the highest summit behind it.

When Anne Lister climbed the Grande Vignemale in 1838, the first ‘outsider’ to do so, she would have seen the glacier stretching right down into the valley.

Humans and farm animals: the moral contract

Saturday, June 16th, 2018
Mouflon

Mouflon in the Massif Central

 

We are talking about sheep and bears in the Pyrenees when Alain Reynes, director of the pro-bear organization Pays de l’Ours tackles a broader concept.

“What is a domesticated animal?” he asks. It is a rhetorical question. “The sheep’s ancestor was the Asiatic mouflon. What happens is that you take a wild animal that is capable of living in natural surroundings. You domesticate it, increasing its productivity. But at the same time, you reduce its ability to live in the wild, to escape predators and resist diseases. The moral contract between the animal and humans is that we assure its food, take care of it when ill, and protect it. In exchange, the energy that the animal has saved from not having to escape from predators, not needing to fight diseases, and looking for food – all that energy – will be transferred to us humans in the form of meat, wool, or work. That’s the contract. When one has domesticated animals, which by their nature are under our protection, and one lets them loose on the mountains they can’t cope. They are very vulnerable. If we don’t protect them, we are breaking the contract.”

 

Sheep and lamb in the Pyrénées

Sheep and lamb in the Pyrénées

 

The question being debated in the Pyrenees at present is how to protect them from bears and wolves. How exactly should we fulfil our part of the contract?

Canigó webcam now working

Saturday, May 26th, 2018

The Cortelets hostel webcam is now working and will be online until mid-Octobre.

The webcam is aimed at the summit (2784m). Screen-shot on 26 mai 2018

The webcam is aimed at the summit (2784m). Screenshot, 26 mai 2018

There seems to be a lot of snow on the ridge leading to the summit.

Transhumance in the Ariège Pyrenees

Saturday, May 19th, 2018
Transhumance with cows

Transhumance with cows

 

There’s nothing quite like transhumance, following the animals as they leave the farm on their way to the mountain pastures for the summer. And for the farmers Philippe and Jason Lacube, their fellow workers and friends, it is an opportunity to explain farming and to enjoy themselves with the 140 visitors who have come to participate in this ancient tradition.

(more…)

Bears in the Pyrenees: the official report for 2017

Sunday, May 13th, 2018
Bear cub. Photo: Djo

Bear cub . Photo: Djo

 

The French Réseau Ours Brun (Brown Bear Network) has released its annual report [summary at end in English]. There are now officially 43 bears in the Pyrenees, spread over an area of 5,000km2 in two separate zones. 41 live in the central zone (up 2 from 2016) and 2 in the western zone. With ten adult females now present, there should be more cubs this year. (more…)

map of GR10

 
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