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Austria and Switzerland lower bar for shooting wolves | Sciences


Austria and Switzerland lower the bar for shooting wolves

06/30/2023, 05:16

| Reading time: 5 minutes

A European gray wolf in a barn at the Wolf Center in Dorwerden.

Photo: Sina Schuldt/dpa

Wolf is a hot topic. Legally, he’s strictly protected – but pressure is building for him to come after him. This is evidenced by developments in Switzerland and Austria.

In Austria and Switzerland, the wolf, which is strictly protected in the European Union, is becoming increasingly targeted by poachers. As in Carinthia, Tyrol and Lower Austria, from the first of July, in Upper Austria wolves can also be shot by decree, which are held responsible, for example, for killing livestock such as sheep or goats. There are also similar plans in Salzburg. “Act rather than watch” is the motto now, according to Upper Austria’s Minister of Agriculture, Michaela Langer-Winger.

A new hunting regulation will come into force in Switzerland on July 1. It contains, for example, changes to areas where there was already damage: there, lone wolves can now be released from six cattle tears, previously the threshold was ten tears. In addition, wolves are more likely to be killed if they appear near homes and are not afraid of people.

The number of wolves in Switzerland is increasing

In addition, the Swiss government is providing another four million Swiss francs (4.1 million euros) to protect livestock. Animal protection organization Gruppe Wolf Schweiz attributes the fact that far fewer cattle were killed in the first half of 2023 to good protection of the herd. In Valais, cracks are down by 55 percent and in Graubünden by 80 percent compared to the same period last year. Most wolves live in two cantons.

According to the organization, there are 26 packs and around 12 pairs of wolves in Switzerland. The inventory continues to grow. While in the first half of 2022 in Valais and Graubünden six wolves were released for shooting due to cracks, this year there was not one.

Minimum hurdles to bring down wolves in Austria violate EU law, said Lukas End of the Austrian Nature Conservation Union. The change of formal procedure from the decision to shoot to an ordinary law cut off the possibility of objections, for example by nature conservation societies. “Nationally, we no longer have any legal options to take action against the shooting,” Ende said.

“The buds do not spare the protection of the herd”

Albin Blaschka, head of the Austria Bar-Wolf-Lux Center, said the number of wolves in Austria has increased dramatically to at least 40. In 2022 they will kill about 800 sheep and goats on alpine pastures. In this year’s alpine season, there are about 150 so far. Experts have currently counted seven packs and a number of roaming lone wolves.

“The killings in no way replace the protection of the herd,” Blaschka said. But this is exactly what is controversial. The state of Tyrol has declared all 2,100 alpine pastures to be alpine protection areas and has classified herd protection as not feasible in the often steep terrain. Protecting alpine pastures with fences is not an option for the state of Salzburg either: “The herd protection works in the area near the farm, and Salzburg farmers have already invested more than 800,000 euros for it,” said the Salzburg state wolf officer. Salzburg, Hubert Stock. But up in the terrain it feels different.

Austria’s southernmost province of Carinthia is particularly active when it comes to wolf hunting. According to the state government, five animals identified as problematic have been shot here over the past year and a half. They were said to have repeatedly approached the settlements at a distance of less than 200 meters and could not be disturbed by them.

The German Farmers Association is also seeking relief

Politicians from the conservative ÖVP and right-wing FPÖ want to keep up the pressure on Brussels. “The European Union failed to adjust the protection status of the wolf,” said Agriculture Minister Langer Wenger.

Among other things, the German Farmers’ Union also seeks to mitigate the shooting of wolves in this country. The dangers of wolf lacerations are particularly high on hillside pastures, which are typical of Bavaria and cannot be fenced in, as has been suggested recently. In 2021, the association estimates the number of maimed, injured, or missing animals in this country to be 3,400.

The wolf has been spreading slowly since it returned to Germany in 1998. In the wolf year 2021/2022 (from May 1 to April 30), the officially confirmed number of wolf packs nationwide was 161 (the previous year 158), according to the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) and the Center The Federal Documentation and Advisory Board on Wolves (DBBW) was announced at the end of 2022.

For cattle breeders in Germany, there are state herd protection subsidies in almost all federal states with large wolf populations. Around 1.20m high electric fences – depending on the individual situation – kennels are also recommended. The BfN advises that overall flock protection should be implemented as preemptively as possible before wolves become accustomed to tearing apart sheep and goats, for example, as “easy prey”.

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