Crying wolf?

Cet article est également disponible en: French

Wolves in the Maison des Loup, Orlu, Ariège

Wolves in the Maison des Loups, Orlu, Ariège


Are too many wolves being culled in France? Or not enough? Ecological associations here are taking the government to court, demanding that it changes its policy on culling. Up to 36 can be killed each year if they repeatedly attack sheep. The associations want the government to take the (relatively low) total wolf population into account and reduce the number of wolves killed. But, as a recent demonstration showed, some farmers in the Pyrenees are unhappy about predators and don’t want any more.

So how do wolves affect the Pyrenees?

The wolf at the door

Wolves are returning here and have set up camp near the Mediterranean, around Canigó and Carlit (Pyrénées-Orientales). Curiously, DNA testing shows that they have trekked across France rather than strolled in from nearby Spain.

Their arrival looks set to be even more controversial than the reintroduction of bears. Only 10% of a bear’s diet consists of meat; wolves eat nothing else. Protecting livestock will become even more of a problem.

Ten thousand sheep killed or injured by wolves

Transhumance in Ariège

Transhumance in Ariège


So far the effect on the Pyrenees has been limited: in 2016, only three animals were attacked. But the figures for the whole of France are alarming. In the first nine months of 2017 there were 2805 attacks, principally on sheep, with 9918 killed or injured.*

Farmers are compensated: 3.2M€ annually, which works out at around 300€/animal killed or injured. The owners of the three sheep killed in the Pyrenees received 1354€.

Counting wolves to get to sleep?

With 52 wolf packs distributed across 63 zones, the wolf is returning to France in force. Official estimates  give the population as 360. Twenty years ago it was less than 50. French farmers seem to be particularly unprepared for this new situation, with losses being proportionally much higher than in most other European countries.

Take Spain, for example. The 2012/14 census there identified 297 wolf packs and suggested an overall population of 2000. But despite there being six times as many of them, they wolfed down fewer sheep.

How can this be? It is true that they are more dispersed in Spain and therefore less likely to be near sheep. But what makes the real difference is that wolves have always been there. Shepherds have adapted to the situation: either by adopting protective measures or abandoning certain pastures.

Once again, Pyrenean shepherds are being forced to change their habits by factors outside their control. In a world where the number of wild animals is decreasing dramatically, some people think the effort is worth it. In a world where shepherds feel they are losing control of their destiny, some think it isn’t.

*Number of animals for which compensation has been paid plus probable attacks currently being analysed.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger... This entry was posted on Monday, December 11th, 2017 at 12:52 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a comment below, or trackback from your own site.

More on walking in the Pyrenees

Leave a Reply

map of GR10

site designed by Archétype Informatique: création de site internet, Narbonne