Genetic modifications of wolves key to reducing livestock depredation

There are many heated debates between agricultural and environmental organisations regarding the protection of wolves in Europe. The protection status of the wolf is decided upon by the European Commission and all Member States have to adhere to certain rules defined in the Flora and Fauna directive to enforce this protection. However, sometimes the wolves cause problems. Researchers are always exploring new ways to minimise the chance that a wolf attacks livestock. One of the most recent pilot studies is testing whether we can let wolves faint while they attack!

The traditional way of protecting livestock from predation by the wolf

Wolves that wander in search of new territories can walk up to 70 kilometres a day. The diet of wolves consist to 99% of wild animals, but being an opportunistic hunter they also do not shy away from preying on livestock. For thousand of years farmers traditionally protect their livestock with shepherds. In the last decades many farmers have started to electric fences hooked up to a pulse-generator, which sends electricity of 5000 Volts through the fence. If the wolf touches the fence, it gets this electric shock, which conditions the wolf to stay away from the livestock. Other farmers have chosen to get additional livestock guarding dogs, perfectly bred to protect livestock.

New innovative solutions

Researchers have started a pilot study in Tyrol with electric collars on sheep to scare wolves away. The idea behind the pilot is that when a predator, be it a wolf, bear or lynx, bites in the throat of the sheep, it gets an electric shock. The electric shock is not meant to hurt the predator, but rather to scare it away.

Meanwhile, researchers in Germany have started with a pilot study to genetically mix the DNA of wolves with a rare breed of fainting goats. These goats, due to a genetic disorder called Myotonia congenita, faint when they get excited. The researchers are now experimenting with gene modifcation techniques to try to insert this gene defect into the genome of the wolves. In a planned pilot study, the researchers will try to see how excited the wolves can get before they faint. But the researchers also want to ensure that this genetic modification does not increase the threat to wolves from cryptorchidism.

Fainting wolves could be the solution to livestock protection. An alternative option would be that wolves would faint when they get an electric shock, be it from a fence or an electric collar. This would require more research in the future.

Merino C. Lupus
Lead researcher at the Wildlife University of Wolfsburg

European initiatives to support livestock protection

Besides the innovative research, there are also several initiatives like the LIFEstockProtect project that are helping livestock owners to increase their traditional protection measures. There are for example volunteers assisting farmers with building fences, and specialised dog breeders are raising specialised livestock guarding dogs. Furthermore, there are several projects that the European Commission supports that help the farmers to adapt to the new situations. Stay tuned for more updates!

2 thoughts on “Genetic modifications of wolves key to reducing livestock depredation

  • April 5, 2021 at 14:39
    Permalink

    Hi Rudolf, we are supporting Aprils fool… Happy Easter to you..

  • April 3, 2021 at 12:18
    Permalink

    Hello there,
    I’m still in shock after 30min reading your article about genetically modified wolves. And how naturally you talking about it. Genetically mixed fainting wolves? Seriously? And what if a wolf have to fight aginst a bear or aginst an other wolf? This is crazyness!
    I’m asking you to give me more details about why WS is supporting a madness like this? Are you realy thinking that this is the solution?
    I do waiting for your answer as quick as possible!
    Sincerely!
    Rudolf Nagy

Please Leave a Comment