WWF expert concerned

“People are being driven crazy by the wolf”

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14.02.2024 06:25

In recent weeks, scaremongering about the wolf, which is now being seen more often in our regions again, has reached new heights. "Wolves are crossing national borders. They are multiplying and causing enormous damage." They need to be shot, a Swiss conservationist has claimed. The international nature and environmental protection organization WWF, on the other hand, only shakes its head at these words. krone.at has taken a closer look at the facts - and wants to let the figures speak against the backdrop of this emotional debate.

"Herd protection measures are not working", roared Swiss wildlife biologist Marcel Züger, pleading for the wolf's protection status to be lowered. This was followed by affirmative comments from representatives of farmers and mountain pastures, including the argument that fencing off mountain pastures would harm tourism. "That's really annoying," says WWF wolf expert Christian Pichler in an interview with krone.at. "Because it's simply not true!"

Absurdly enough, herd protection measures are working well in Switzerland. According to Pichler, there are currently 36 wolf packs there (in comparison: in Austria, we currently have between six and seven packs or around 70 individual animals), almost all of which are in mountainous areas, and far more sheep than in the Alpine republic. Nevertheless, our neighbor only records about a third more kills than we do, "and the reason is not that they have wolves that avoid sheep, but because they are better protected there," the expert tells us. The WWF always tries to have an objective discussion with politicians on this topic. "But then the Chamber of Agriculture brings in an agitator from Switzerland who has never worked with wolves and has little knowledge of the subject of livestock protection," says Pichler in amazement. And this opinion then sticks.

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If we manage to fly to the moon, why do some politicians claim that we can't fence in flocks of sheep?

WWF-Wolfsexperte Christian Pichler

Wolf management is also feasible in Austria
Efficient wolf management could also be implemented here if we had the political will. According to Pichler, the most important step has been taken with anti-wolf fences and shepherding on mountain pastures. Instead, false factual claims are being spread. Shepherding and a fence would basically only bring advantages. Sick sheep would be recognized and treated more quickly by the shepherd. In addition, there are many complaints from farmers that tourists with dogs run through the middle of the flocks of sheep on the mountain pastures. Every now and then the sheep get frightened. For example, there are cases where animals have fallen and died because of this. "It would be desirable if tourists were educated and avoided the flock of sheep," says the expert hopefully.

The principle of the anti-wolf fence is simple - there is no need to erect a high-security enclosure. After all, the wolf has plenty to eat and instinctively looks for the easiest thing to catch. "If it has a harder time with the sheep because of fences that give it an electric shock, then it prefers to look for a sick deer in the forest," explains Pichler. So you have good protection with a reasonable amount of effort. "And the sheep must actually be worth that to us," appeals the researcher.

Shock after "Dolly-gate":Doesthe wolf really eat horses?
Basically, the wolf is considered a health policeman. It mainly feeds on sick, weak and old wild animals. They occasionally kill livestock, but the number is negligible in comparison. It mainly kills sheep, and occasionally cattle and wild deer. The hysteria following "Dolly-Gate" - a wolf killed a pony belonging to EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen - is unfounded, according to data provided to krone.at by the WWF. The records show that only three horses were killed in Austria.

Only 0.21 percent of sheep die at the hands of wolves
But even among sheep, the wolf is only their "killer" to a very small extent in comparison: a meagre 0.21 percent of the fluffy white animals kept fall victim to it. Ten times more die from storms, falling rocks and diseases. The WWF sees an urgent need to catch up here. The sheep should not be left to fend for themselves on the mountain pastures. There is an urgent need for good fences and shepherds to round up the animals during storms. Many sheep are afraid and fall off. However, their worst killer is man anyway. 80 percent of the sheep we keep end up in the slaughterhouse and eventually on our plates.

In addition to the lack of supervision during thunderstorms, mountain pastures also pose the problem that there are significantly more kills there. Even in the overall calculation, more sheep are killed on alpine pastures than among those who do not live on alpine pastures - although the majority do not live on alpine pastures. "If we manage to fly to the moon, why do some politicians claim that we can't fence in flocks of sheep? Surely that will be possible, as long as the graziers also receive support," wonders Pichler.

How dangerous are wolves for humans?
Wolves pose almost no danger to us humans - the probability of being killed by a wolf is almost 0.0. Of course, there is always a residual risk with a wild animal. "It may be that it is fed, which is always a problem, and then it loses its natural shyness," says the expert.

One such exciting case circulated in the media a few days ago. In a small village in Trentino in Italy, a wolf came dangerously close to a mother. The wild animal, which was apparently still young, ran across the middle of the cross-country ski trail in the Italian Val di Fassa without any shyness and was not even disturbed by several amateur athletes who were running across the snow band "Nothing happened this time, but who knows if the next encounter will be just as harmless", according to community representatives from the village of Pozza di Fassa. The wolf is said to have become so trusting because of humans. According to the news portal "Südtirol News", hikers have even fed the animal and taken photos with it.

Overall, however, it is possible to come to terms with the wolf. According to Pichler, fear of them is being deliberately stirred up. Five or six years ago, the uncertainty among the population was not so great. Today, "people are being driven crazy by the wolf". The hysteria has now even spread to the lynx - an animal with which, according to the scientist, there have never been any incidents involving humans. And this is despite the fact that there are really dangerous animals in the forest when looking for mushrooms. Like ticks, for example. "They really do kill people," concludes Pichler.

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