Drastic but well researched idea being tested on Blackface sheep and Wild Boar
One of the biggest challenge of the return of the wolf to many parts of Europe is the outcry from sheep owners to the unprotected sheep predation by single roaming wolves. The best protection is a good herd management strategy utilizing shepherds, electrical fences, herding and guarding dogs. Nevertheless, many traditional sheep owners are resisting the advice even though best practice examples like the Ramuz Alp show that this reduces the sheep predation to almost zero.
We also know that wild boars are fearless animals that do not hesitate to attack wolves if they become a threat to them. Wild Boars are often successful to fend of attacks by solitary wolves. Only large wolf packs dare to attack wild boars.
The genetic cloning of Sheep Dolly and many sheep afterwards has shown researchers that sheep are actually easy genetically modified. This gave researchers of a large British based genetic research laboratory the idea to experiment with sheep to make them more aggressive towards wolves without compromising their attitude towards humans while also not impacting the wool and meat production. The researcher presented their promising preliminary finding to us at the LIFE WolfAlps conference end of March in Trento, Italy. They showcased in private meetings a new approach that may overcome the losses of sheep to solitary wolves.
Researcher are now actively exploring the idea of genetically modifying a single strand of the Scottish Blackface sheep with the genes responsible in wild boars for their fearless attack on wolves. The Scottish Blackface sheep were chosen since they are already common breed all over Europe. Their meat is also free of superfluous fat and is known the world over for its distinct flavor. Although they are not large sheep they have enormous potential for the production of high quality lean lamb for today’s health conscious consumer Scottish Blackface wool is also a specialty wool in a class of its own. The expectation and hope are that these genetically modified sheep are then more willing to attack the solitary wolves to which at the moment the often fall prey. If sheep attack wolves, this would also reduce further down the line, the losses in cases where sheep are not protected with all the methods deemed necessary at the moment.