The boomerang of bear and wolf cull in Slovenia

In Slovenia, an annual bear and wolf cull is in place with the purpose of reducing carnivore damages. Normally, experts suggest the cull quota for both species, which then passes through the parliament. However, this year, the process took a different turn, which resulted in an escalating conflict.

Experts from Slovenian Forest Services suggested that the culling quotas for 2018-2019 hunting season should be 200 bears and 11 wolves. However, soon after that, Legal-information centre and the Society for the Preservation of Slovenian National Heritage sued the state for wolf cull. Additionally, an NGO Alpe Adria Green did the same for the bear cull. What followed was the cancellation of the wolf cull in November, as it was found illegal on court. Soon after, the court also stopped the bear cull until they would make their decision.

Conflict escalation

The court only made the decision about the bear cull in April. They found the cull act legal but some of the appendices illegal. Therefore, the Government must modify them before the cull can occur again. At this time, farmers have already started protesting about large carnivore damage with a show of dead livestock carcasses. Their protest was followed by another of animal rights activists against the cull.

That’s where politicians stepped in. The Minister for Agriculture Aleksandra Pivec gave the initiative for an emergency law to cull 175 bears and 11 wolves. Her justifications were that bears and wolves are a large threat to the local residents and that the damages from livestock depredation have reached too high levels. Additionally, in her opinion, there have already been large investment into damage prevention by electric fences, and Slovenia cannot entirely be fenced. However, the evidence does not support these arguments. For example, bears and wolves are a very limited threat to humans. There hasn’t been a wolf attack in decades, while bear attacks are extremely rare. The law passed through the parliament successfully last week.

Damage prevention methods

Evidence shows that non-lethal damage prevention methods are more effective in damage prevention than culling or hunting is. Damage prevention methods include the use of properly installed electic fences and livestock guarding dogs. European Wilderness Society has just submitted a Life project about livestock damage prevention in the German speaking Alps. Similarly, Life DinAlp Bear and Life SloWolf have worked on livestock protection in Slovenia.

While the cull itself is unlikely to (fully) prevent future damages by wolves and bears, it may at least temporarily calm the spirits of angry farmers down. However, it will not resolve the conflict itself due to the opposition to the cull in other social groups. Thus, it is unlikely that the cull itself could ever resolve the conflict that is present between different social groups. On the other hand, damage prevention has the ability to keep the wolf full and the sheep alive, the farmers satisfied and the animal activists happy.

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