The Slovenian Comission of the National Council for farming has passed a law to cull 30 wolves and 220 bears. The cull will start in May for both and will end next April and next January for bears and for wolves, respectively. They claim that the law is in accordance with experts’ recommendations. Currently, there are about 95 wolves and about 975 bears based on the scientific monitorings. The new proposed quota for bears is higher than last year’s of 175 bears. Furthermore, the quota for wolves has nearly tripled, from 11 wolves last year. This year’s quota means that about a third of the wolf population will be culled.
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The new law serves as an extension of the Intervention law passed last summer. Last year, the court stopped the regular cull decree for legal flaws in it. This led to farmer protests against wolves, to which the government responded by proposing an Intervention law for bear and wolf cull. However, despite the fact that this year, a regular culling decree could be prepared in cooperation with experts, the National Council for farming is more interested in continuing the Intervention law.
The newly passed law also regulates the cull less strongly. For example, now, the cull can take place if the wolves may cause “serious” (rather than “significant”, as previously) damage. In addition, the culling season for both species is longer.
The law circumventing other institutions involved
The Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning does not support the new law. They do not believe the Intervention law to be justified. They would like to continue large carnivore management in holistic way together with the working groups involving relevant stakeholders. One of the involved stakeholders is also Slovenian Forestry Service, who normally propose the cull quota on expert opinion. They stated that they are still preparing the cull quota proposal. Therefore, the new law cannot be based on expert opinion, despite being stated to be.
The working groups have so far agreed that there would only be exceptional cull of the wolves rather than a cull with a quota. For bears, scientists need to prepare the technical argumentation first. Based on that, the work groups will decide whether there is a cull quota or whether only individual animals are culled. The first part of the technical argumentation has shown that despite preventative measures, the conflict level is still increasing. In the second stage, scientists must be able to show that a specific cull quota will reduce the levels of conflict through reducing the population size.
This is an attempt to legalise wolf and bear killing because of the hunting lobby pressure that presents itself publically as agricultural lobby.
The new Intervention law likely does not comply with EU legislation, namely the Habitats Directive. Just recently, the European Court of Justice decided that culling is only a suitable measure after it is scientifically proven that damages cannot be prevented in other ways. Considering the Slovenian Forest Service is currently preparing such evidence, whether the new Law likely has sufficient scientific justification is questionable.
While the Comission of the National Council for farming hopes that the cull will help reduce the livestock depredation pressure, there are other ways to do that. Rather than killing the wolf, a more effective way of protecting the livestock would be livestock protection. This includes livestock guarding dogs, electric fences and shepherds, who have proven themselves to be effective in reducing depredation.