Wolf-hunting permit issued after sheep massacre
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France’s growing wolf population is good news for environmentalists – but the feeling is not shared by the country’s livestock farmers. This week they get a measure of revenge as a rare wolf-hunting license is issued.
A rare wolf-hunting license was issued Monday after a spate of attacks on mountain herds. The move was given a cautious welcome by livestock farmers who fear it is too little too late in the face of a ballooning – and mostly untouchable – wolf population.
The permit was issued by the departmental authorities after a bloody weekend in which a suspected lone wolf was responsible for the deaths of more than 70 sheep.
During the Friday night attack on a flock of some 1,500 animals, 10 were killed outright and 62, stampeding in panic, went over the edge of a cliff.
Yves Derbez, representing 347 herdsmen in the department, said the move was a “small measure” after the loss to his flock, and urgently called for tighter regulation of wolf numbers as their population balloons in France.
“We have to take concrete measures now before sheep herding is completely wiped out in France,” he told reporters on Sunday.
The number of animals falling victim to wolves is certainly on the rise.
So far this year, there have been 66 attacks attributed to wolves in France, claiming the lives of 422 animals. In the whole of 2010, there were 86 attacks at a cost of 246 animals, mostly sheep.
The signing of the permit on Monday is a last resort measure. By law only six wolves a year can be killed legally in France and permits can only be issued if all other means of protection of flock have proven ineffective.
A total of six wolves have been legally hunted in France since 2004.
In the 1930s, wolves were completely eradicated from France. They have been gradually reintroduced since 1992, when a pair of Italian wolves was transported to the Mercantour national park on the Italian-French border.
According to official estimates, France has anywhere between 150 and 200 wolves, roaming mostly in the French Alps.
Some populations have emerged in the central Massif range and also in the Pyrenees on the Spanish border.