• France's news in English

Wolves to be 'educated' not to kill sheep

AFP/The Local · 7 Feb 2013, 08:59

Published: 07 Feb 2013 08:59 GMT+01:00

Can you teach a wolf not to eat sheep?

The idea is being floated in France, where the return of the wolf has got farmers and environmentalists at each other's throats.

Under a proposed "National Wolf Plan," the government says it will conduct experiments into "educating" the canine carnivore, which is spreading stealthily in remote areas.

Rest assured, this scheme does not entail lecturing wolves about the cuteness of lambs or trying to convert them to vegetarianism.

Instead, it entails capturing individual wolves that are known to attack a local flock and then marking these bothersome predators before letting them go.

The theory is that the animal will be so traumatised by the experience that it will leave the sheep alone and instead hunt for deer, boar, rabbits and other wild animals.

But if the wolf remains a problem, the ID makes it easier to be singled out and shot.

"Eleven of France's regional parks have said they are willing to take part in the experiments," Ecology Minister Delphine Batho said this week, as the proposal met a mixed reception.

Once plentiful, the wolf officially died out in France in the 1930s, wiped out by farmers and hunters.

More than a half a century later, wolves began creeping back, crossing the border from Italy. In 1992, suspicions of the comeback were confirmed when a pair of wolves were spotted in the Mercantour park in the southeast of the country.

Around 250 wolves in France

Today, according to Eric Marboutin at the National Office for Hunting and Wildlife (ONCFS), there are around 250 wolves, 90 percent of them in the Alps, and scatterings of others in the east and southwest of France, including the eastern Pyrenees.

In 2011, a wolf was spotted for the first time in the Vosges, in eastern France, and last year, a wolf was photographed in a cornfield in the southwestern department (county) of Gers, the westernmost point of the species' advance.

The wolf is shielded by the Bern Convention on European wildlife, and in 2007 it joined other mammals on a list of species that in France are given special protection, except in specific cases where they pose a threat.

But flocks are under rising pressure as the wolves expand.

Two powerful groups -- the agricultural lobby and the environmental movement -- are fiercely at odds, despite efforts to forge consensus in a "National Wolf Group" that includes politicians.

Emotions flared last month in the upper house of the French parliament, where rural regions are strongly represented.

Senator Pierre Bernard-Reymond of the High Alps region blasted Parisians for what he said was their cosy image of an ancient predator.

"It's time to release a few wolfpacks in the Vincennes Park or the Luxembourg Gardens," he said -- a suggestion that was not adopted.

In 2008, 2,680 sheep were killed by wolves, according to an official count; this rose to 4,920 in 2011 and 5,848 in 2012, when the state paid out compensation of around two million euros ($2.7 million).

At present, 11 wolves are allowed to be shot each year. Anti-wolvers say that this restriction is far too inflexible.

Under the 2013-2017 plan, the figure would be adjusted in line with scientific estimates of what is a sustainable wolf population.

"The wolf is and will remain a species that is strictly protected," the ecology and agricultural ministries said in a joint statement.

"However, bearing in mind the healthy population dynamics of this species, it is possible to fine-tune the methods for managing it."

Capturing and marking a problem animal would mean that only the real culprits would be targeted. Or so it is hoped.

Jean-Jacques Blanchon of the pro-wolf Nicolas Hulot Foundation said wolf education had worked successfully in pilot experiments in the United States, "so we should make the effort to see what it can do for us."

Don't bother, retorted others.

"You might as well try to educate a shark," said Daniel Spagnou, a member of a commission probing the fraught relationship between wolves and mountain herdsmen.

"What a circus! Whatever next? Wolf-tamers?"

Related articles

AFP/The Local (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

2013-02-28 21:21:30 by Flatdog
I wish they would introduce wolves back into Britain. With the recent law against Fox Hunting, it will not be long before a human baby is killed. Several have been attacked and mutilated since the ban on hunting foxes was made law, despite foxes being classified as vermin, just as rats are.

Wolves used to kill foxes, but they were exterminated several hundred years ago in the UK, so hunting foxes with dogs became necessary in order to manage the fox population in a similar way to how the wolves used to do it.

That's now prevented by ignorant urban bunny huggers. I wonder how they will handle the idea of wolves when they want to go on a camping weekend in the Sherwood Forest?
Today's headlines
Air France and pilots back on speaking terms
A picture taken on October 9, 2015 shows the facade of the headquarters of the airline company Air France KLM in Paris. Photo: AFP

Air France and pilots back on speaking terms

4 hours ago

Air France resumed negotiations with pilots' unions on Friday for the first time since one of its executives had his shirt torn off by an angry mob after the airline unveiled plans for job cuts.

France in the autumn: Ten stunning images
The Chateau d'Aiguines in southern France. Photo: Sam2907/Flickr

France in the autumn: Ten stunning images

5 hours ago

Some would argue that France is never prettier than in the autumn... and after seeing this set of pictures you might be inclined to agree.

French hotel industry to 'go hard' after Airbnb
The rise of Airbnb has angered the French hotel industry who say the game is no longer fair. Photo: AFP

French hotel industry to 'go hard' after Airbnb

7 hours ago

The head of France's hoteliers union (UMIH) has fired a warning to Airbnb telling The Local that the suffering hotel industry will "go hard" after the room sharing website in a bid to level out "unfair competition".

Education in France
The troubles with French universities laid bare
Students in Lyon. Photo: AFP

The troubles with French universities laid bare

8 hours ago

Classrooms overflowing, a serious lack of funding, and a flailing reputation abroad... what exactly is wrong with France's university system? The Local's Oliver Gee takes a closer look.

France's Muslim men suffer CV discrimination
Muslim men were much less likely to get called in compared to Catholic men. Photo: Nguyen Vu Hung/Flickr

France's Muslim men suffer CV discrimination

9 hours ago

A practising Muslim man is four times less likely to get a job interview in France than a Catholic counterpart, according to a study published on Thursday.

France hits Isis targets in Syria a second time
A file image of Rafale jets. Photo: AFP

France hits Isis targets in Syria a second time

12 hours ago

French warplanes carried out a second wave of strikes overnight on Islamic State targets in Syria, Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Friday.

Video emerges of French train hero's stabbing
CCTV footage shows Stone fighting several men in Sacramento. Photo: YouTube/Screenshot

Video emerges of French train hero's stabbing

1 day ago

VIDEO: Spencer Stone, one of the three Americans who helped foil a terror attack on a French train, is in hospital in California after he was stabbed while apparently coming to a woman's rescue. A CCTV video has emerged of the stabbing.

France pays ex-convict over smoking cell mates
Photo: Raul Lieberwirth/Flickr

France pays ex-convict over smoking cell mates

13 hours ago

An ex-prisoner in France has successfully sued the state for placing him in a cell with smokers, a court in the northwestern town of Caen said on Thursday.

France adopts bill to keep minors from jihad
Around 500 French nationals are thought to be in Syria or Iraq. Photo: AFP

France adopts bill to keep minors from jihad

13 hours ago

French lawmakers adopted a draft law Thursday that will require minors to have permission from their parents or legal guardians before leaving the country in a bid to curb departures for jihad in Iraq or Syria.

Strike sees rubbish pile up on Paris streets
Rubbish piles up in front of a Parisian doorway. Photo: Patrick Auzou/Twitter

Strike sees rubbish pile up on Paris streets

1 day ago

Around 3,000 tonnes of (extra) rubbish have accumulated on the streets of Paris as a strike by the city's rubbish collectors enters its fourth day.

How to find a graduate job in France
The pro-women French TV ad that was axed because it was too sexist
The secret to more travel for less
French bakers in trouble with the law for... working too often
What's on in France: Ten great things to do in October
French car makes it from Paris to Bordeaux... without a driver
This pic was enough to see a French beauty queen stripped of her crown
Analysis & Opinion
Opinion: Tearing suits of Air France execs isn't great for France's image
Opinion: France should follow UK and teach drivers not punish them
Paris: See how rundown Gare du Nord became one big disco
When angry French workers target their bosses (and it pays off)
French Riviera floods: Marineland park left under sea of mud
IN PICTURES: French Riviera ravaged by 'apocalyptic' floods
Looters arrested after deadly floods strike southern France
Eight top vegetarian restaurants in France
Indecent exposure: French cops drop trousers at British war memorial
Please France can we just have one emergency phone number
French study: Passive smoking likely to cause kids behavioural problems
Here are 12 reasons why it's worth staying in France
Locals shocked as Nazi banner unfurled in Nice
Burger King to swallow up Quick in France then take on 'McDo'
OPINION: France's jobless benefit system shouldn't be derided
A Day Without Cars: The ten Paris streets you just have to walk down
jobs available