Ravenous wolves colonise France, terrorise shepherds

Jul 28, 2011 by Antoine Agasse
Wolves were eradicated in France in the 1930s, but made a comeback in the southern Alps in 1992
The mountains over Grenoble were once an ideal grazing ground for his 900 sheep. But now, after long banishment, the wolves are back -- bolder and hungrier than ever. Wolves were eradicated in France in the 1930s, but made a comeback in the southern Alps in 1992, crossing from Italy. They have spread through eastern France, first to the Savoy and this year to the Vosges and Doubs regions.

A bloody, stinking sheep's carcass greets shepherd Yves Vignon as he walks to check on his flock on the foggy Alpine heights. It's the 17th of his ewes to be savaged in a month.

The mountains over Grenoble were once an ideal grazing ground for his 900 sheep. But now, after long banishment, the are back -- bolder and hungrier than ever.

"We came to this spot on June 24. A week later we were attacked" by wolves, Vignon, 62, told AFP. It was the first of at least four attacks over the past month.

"Every morning when I get up, I wonder what I am going to find on the spot where the sheep have spent the night," he says. "I'm not here to feed those wolves!"

Wolves were eradicated in France in the 1930s, but made a comeback in the southern Alps in 1992, crossing from Italy. They have spread through eastern France, first to the Savoy and this year to the Vosges and Doubs regions.

Since 1992, wolves have spread through eastern France, first to the Savoy and this year to the Vosges and Doubs regions
People are pictured collecting the carcasses of dead sheep from the bottom of a 20-metre-high cliff, in 2004, in Saint-Etienne-de-Tinee. Shephards claimed that a wolf attack forced the sheep over the cliff.

The predators have also appeared in the Pyrenees and in the heart of France in the Massif Central mountain range, but the government says these far-flung wolves also originate from the Italian pack.

Regional authorities estimate the French population at between 170 and 200 this year, up from 140 to 170 last year. The government says wolves killed 1,329 animals, mostly sheep, in France this year up to July 22.

"We are beginning to wonder if there is a type of wolf that has no fear... since humans are not doing anything to them," says Pascal Grosjean, a French government wolf expert.

One such pack of fearless wolves swooped on a flock in broad daylight under the noses of two shepherds and five sheep dogs in the Alps in November 2010, Grosjean said.

European Union law forbids Vignon to reach for a rifle to solve his wolf problem, though as a last resort authorities can authorise the strategic shooting of a particularly deadly wolf, up to a limit of six per year.

Police in the Alps told AFP they had authorised one such hit last weekend after a wolf devoured 10 sheep and sent a further 62 in panic plunging to their deaths in a ravine. Thirty went missing in the overnight attack.

State officials have suggested Vignon fence his sheep in with electric wire -- not a practical option in the remote, rocky spots where he grazes his flocks.

He has considered using fierce mountain sheep dogs to protect his flock, but hesitates for fear they may bite passing hikers.

"Protection measures are never 100 percent effective because the wolf can exploit the slightest weakness," said Grosjean.

The state has already paid out 364,000 euros (530,000 dollars) to farmers and shepherds such as Vignon this year to compensate them for their mauled sheep.

"I hope that after this hasty measure we can introduce a regulation" limiting the number of wolves, said Yves Derbez, who lost 45 sheep to a wolf earlier this month.

"We have to take effective measures now before farming disappears altogether."

Calls for more freedom to shoot the wolves alarmed environmentalists but many elected officials insisted it was necessary.

"We are perfectly aware of the problems encountered by the farmers," said Green coalition spokesman Pascal Durand. "But we are committed to the coexistence of humans and animals."

The head of the regional council, Jean-Louis Bianco, insisted however: "The wolf is no longer an endangered species," in comments on the radio.

"The shepherds and their flocks are the endangered species."

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User comments : 25

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Sin_Amos
3 / 5 (4) Jul 28, 2011
Why don't they introduce some wild mountain goats for the wolves to hunt? I'm sure there was a population of some wild hoof type animals before people maximized the area with their sheep herds.
Just_some_guy
5 / 5 (1) Jul 28, 2011
What an incredibly biased article!
dbsi
5 / 5 (1) Jul 28, 2011
Keeping sheep unattended is bad anyway. They may have accidents independent of wolfs, breaking a leg for example. So animals may suffer needlessly. Italian shepherds know how to protect their livestock. They use special raised/trained dogs or other animals able to defend against wolfs. It would also be interesting to see how those 364,000 euros compare to the ROI of sheep with normal lifespan, wool and meat production.
Trim
not rated yet Jul 28, 2011
Can't the shepherds be armed with some sort of taser gun designed for wolves? Or make the sheep stink like a skunk.
ryggesogn2
1.9 / 5 (14) Jul 28, 2011
"Calls for more freedom to shoot the wolves alarmed environmentalists but many elected officials insisted it was necessary."
Have the environmentalists reimbursed the govt for money paid to the shepherds?
LKD
2.3 / 5 (3) Jul 28, 2011
The best policy here is to pay the sheepherders for lost sheep and, as suggested, find a way to introduce wild livestock for them to hunt instead of the flocks.

If they pay 1,000 per sheep that is a far cry cheaper than whatever ridiculous 'plan' they come up with the cordon the wolves of with.
Eric_B
1 / 5 (1) Jul 28, 2011
good call, Trim!

They should have rubber bullets or some such thing.

Or, maybe they should just have the right to shoot the wolves that eat their sheep!
Roland
4 / 5 (4) Jul 28, 2011
The shepherds don't own the land in question. Domestic livestock should not be in these sensitive areas. They are "hoofed locusts", eating the grass, crown, roots and all, so it doesn't recover, not to mention destroying food for wildlife. The shepherds caused this "problem" by freeloading on a public resource. They should get the h*** out and graze on their own land.
ryggesogn2
1.3 / 5 (12) Jul 28, 2011
The shepherds caused this "problem" by freeloading on a public resource.

I can't imagine the govt doesn't require the shepherds to pay a fee to graze on govt land, if it is public.
So when the wolves start attacking hikers enjoying the wilderness, then what?
Why would a wolf want to attack an animal that can defend itself? Wild animals have horns and can run. Sheep...not so much.
" fence his sheep in with electric wire"
Wool is a great insulator.
TechnoCore
5 / 5 (4) Jul 28, 2011
There are about 65 million people and about 10 million sheep in France. Surely they can do with 200 measly wolves as well. Or is extinction a better solution for all wild animals that somehow bother the life of humans?

An easy solution to this is to stop the ridiculous subsidy that goes into the EU agricultural industry. (Largest part of the EU budget if I'm not mistaken) Give some of that money to cover the loss of animals lost to wolves and other predators.

source:
http://en.wikiped...f_France
http://www.eds-de..._067.pdf
feralblue
5 / 5 (1) Jul 28, 2011
i am one who is very pro endangered animals. but the wolves seem to be quite
numerous in the area. they are not a peaceful, benign species, no matter that they are close to our domesticated dogs. i guess a lot of you have never read 18th century Russian works where the wolves terrorize people in sleds during the winter. do you remember the wolf who attacked people in the French countryside in the 1700's - La Bête du Gévaudan? This was a vicious animal. what are the shepards supposed to do? - stay up 24 hrs to protect themselves?

providing the wild goat population would be a very good thing and letting these guys shoot the wolves who attack is a good idea, too. maybe it will scare other wolves away. it is not an easy problem to settle - let the French figure it out in peace.
Shelgeyr
1 / 5 (4) Jul 28, 2011
Calls for more freedom to shoot the wolves alarmed environmentalists...


I'd hate to be an environmentalist, always getting all alarmed at things. The poor dears get flustered and flummoxed at the tiniest things (and I'm including "Delta Smelt" in that thought). I mean, I enjoy a nice fairly clean environment as much as the next ravenous westerner, and looking around it seems we're doing a pretty wonderful job (ah, Texas...), but these guys really need to chill.

Seriously - you see a wolf attacking your flocks, you shoot the- oh, wait a minute...

Europe. Nevermind. I guess that's just not an option there.
_nigmatic10
1 / 5 (1) Jul 31, 2011
Yeah. Gunz R da devil and are anti-governmental over there.
KillerKopy
1 / 5 (1) Jul 31, 2011
Let Me assure you with the proper training you can teach dogs to attack wolves and not hikers. In the worst case the Shepard should carry a weapon to shoot the dog that disobeyed and started attacking a hiker. Problem solved.
Deadbolt
2.6 / 5 (5) Jul 31, 2011
Shoot the wolves. Dumb European Law be damned. A man or woman has to protect their livelihood.
paulthebassguy
1.9 / 5 (14) Jul 31, 2011
Rubber bullets will only be a temporary solution - the wolf will be back the next day. Compensation from the government defeats the purpose of farming for the economy.

Wolves are smart animals and they understand actions and consequences. So the best action is to threaten them, start shooting them, and when the wolves feel threatened by the loss of others in their pack they will move away.

The politically correct comments above are based only on ideology & emotion, not feasibiltiy or practicality.
FrankHerbert
3.8 / 5 (13) Aug 01, 2011
LMAO Look at this guys! http://www.physor...activity

Paulthebassguy has an account called paulthebassguy2 that he uses to give every single one of his posts a 5. LOL this is so pathetic.
paulthebassguy
1.9 / 5 (14) Aug 01, 2011
I disagree - I think it's pretty awesome. I actually get my thrills out of rating my own posts, just how I also like my own facebook statusses too, and when I work out I always do so infront of the mirror. I might even create another account one called paulthebassguy3 as well! haha

I would recommend it - Frank you should do the same.
Guy_Underbridge
not rated yet Aug 01, 2011
What if it was the hiker that scared the sheep? Can we shoot them too?
paulthebassguy2
1.4 / 5 (11) Aug 01, 2011
Hikers don't kill the sheep though
antialias_physorg
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 01, 2011
Gunz R da devil and are anti-governmental over there.

Many rural French people (and certainly all sheperds) own shotguns - skeet shooting being a particularly popular sport.

Allowing the wolves to proliferate unopposed will just lead to a population explosion of wolves. Let the sheperds defend their flocks. Introducing natural prey animals is also a good idea.

However, stuff like this
The head of the regional council, Jean-Louis Bianco, insisted however: "The wolf is no longer an endangered species," in comments on the radio.

"The shepherds and their flocks are the endangered species."

is pure polemics.

they are not a peaceful, benign species,

They are wolves. They are no domesticated pets. What did you expect? Wolves are predators. There is no 'benign' way to bring down prey. Wolves are not environmentally conscious (nor are sheep for that matter)
hush1
1 / 5 (3) Aug 04, 2011
1.)Shoot the wolves (sedation guns). Equipped them with unobtrusive senders. The sheep with receivers. (Actually the recipient of the senders/receivers plays no role)

2.)Now equip either the sheep or wolves with the loudest, smallest acoustical devices known to date. (200 dbl, preferably)

3.)Bringing the senders and receivers together (you specify the range) will activate the acoustical devices.

4.)You are either going to get deaf wolves or deaf sheep.
Irrelevant. Why?
What ever happens, you are going to hear (about) it.
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (2) Aug 04, 2011
You are either going to get deaf wolves or deaf sheep.

You're going to get a flock of sheep that will run every which way, break legs, fall down ledges, get lost, get eaten, ...

I think having a few sheep eaten by wolves will be far less (economicaly) damaging to the sheperd than this.

But I can see a market for an iPhone app that tracks wolves whereabouts and gives you a ping whenever one is close by....until the next litter of wolves is raised, of course.
hush1
1 / 5 (3) Aug 04, 2011
My goodness.
Limited the suggestion to the leader of the pack (of wolves).
There countless variations to the theme of this strategy.

There is much to be say about leaders and cries falling on deaf ears.
hush1
1 / 5 (2) Aug 04, 2011
I like your suggestion. Shepherds with iPhones. Chic and Avant-garde.

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