Carnivore Damage News
by Cat Urbigkit, Pinedale Online!
May 17, 2015
The Winter 2015 issue of Carnivore Damage Prevention News provides a fascinating look into conflicts between livestock and predators across Europe.
Here are some of the highlights:
• Wolverines are the rarest of the four large carnivore species in Europe, with a total population of about 1,200 of the carnivores in Norway, Sweden, and Finland. Between 7,000 and 10,000 sheep are compensated each year as wolverine kills in Norway. In most areas of the country, wolverines depend on domestic reindeer as their primary food source (since no other wild ungulates exist in these areas). Rather than focus on livestock mitigation strategies that would seek to reduce depredations, wildlife officials are now focused on providing "a fair level of compensation for losses" as the only successful strategy to sustain the wolverine population.
• Under Swiss law, young men with "conscience objections" to military service may substitute that military service with "alternative civilian service." For the last five years, that has meant serving as agricultural workers (sheepherders) in areas where wolves cause conflicts with livestock. These service workers build and maintain fences, transport materials, watch over livestock, feed livestock guardian dogs, and help the shepherd treat sick or injured animals.
• A study in northwestern Switzerland found that 153 sheep were killed in flocks that did not use livestock guardian dogs, while protected herds suffered a total of 15 losses. Losses in the unprotected herds ranged from 1 to 35 animals, with "multiple surplus killing events."
The study found, "the more livestock guarding dogs were present to protect the herds, the smaller were the numbers of successful wolf attacks and the smaller were the total numbers of killed livestock per head and season."
• In addition to suffering losses from wolverines, sheep producers in Norway have problems with Eurasian lynx preying on their flocks. Almost 10,000 sheep are compensated as lynx kills in Norway each year. Lynx are the most widespread of large carnivores in Norway, and their entire distribution overlaps with sheep production. Research revealed that adult female lynx with dependent young and adult males are four and five times more likely to kill a sheep than other members of the lynx population. Of radio-collared lynx in the study, most killed sheep during the weeks researchers followed their movements (75% of males, and 33% of females), leading researchers to debunk the notion that there are just a few sheep-specialists problem individuals in the lynx population.
• A research article on Sheep Farming in France: Facing the Return of the Wolf, by Laurent Garde, provides a bleak look at the impact of the return of the wolf to France’s sheep producers. Researchers found that large flocks (2,000 to 4,000 sheep) that flock together well in open, high mountain pastures, do well even when faced with wolf presence. (The Ministry of Agriculture finances an assistant shepherd to handle additional work such as erecting electric fences for night penning, and the costs of three to five livestock guardian dogs per flock.) But for smaller flocks the costs of added protection needed to guard flocks from wolf depredations is not economical, and producers are leaving the sheep industry in response.
The paper concludes: "But in all other situations, where you have small flocks, batching, wooded or shrubby grazing land, grazing lambs, attempts to get more value from the products, a multi-activity economic model, or animals grazing freely in the mountain, the sheep farming community feels there is no solution. And it should be kept in mind that these situations represent the vast majority of sheep farming areas where wolves are present or arriving. Either attempt to protect the flocks are failures, in situations where wolves have been already settled for a while, or the prospect of seeing the arrival of wolves is seen as creating hopeless problems. Twenty years after their first experience of wolves, farmers are both discouraged and farther from accepting wolves than they ever were. All of them, whether they belong to major trade unions or to alternatives ones, whether they have turned to short marketing channels or to organic production, increasingly fear for the survival of their activity in the event of a permanent settling of wolf packs on their grazing territory. Given this situation, technical services are helpless. Apart from giving technical advice for the introduction of livestock guarding dogs or providing special equipment to improve protection, they cannot offer a real solution to the problem: how wolf-induced constraints can be dealt with in an existing economic model that is in its present form fully integrates commercial, human and environmental factors."
The link to this issue of Carnivore Damage Prevention News can be found below.