It seems like an unfair battle between humans and wildlife in Europe. Every day there are news items on the wild animals and how people want them gone. Not only the wolf and lynx, but even the bison is not welcomed by local people anymore. In the last months, multiple animals that are strictly protected under European law and FFH-directives were killed or found dead across Europe.
Germany kills the first wild bison in 250 years
This week a free roaming bison, likely from the Polish Ujście Warty National Park, swam across the river Oder from Poland into Germany. Locals spotted the bison and local authorities quickly ordered two hunters to kill the bison. It was the first bison in 250 years to reach German territory on its own. WWF is filing charges, as there was no clear potential threat to the people of Brandenburg. Meanwhile, there are several conservation projects in other regions of Germany, aiming to release the bison back into nature.
France kills three wolves
In the beginning of August, the ONCFS (National Office for Hunting and Wildlife) killed three young wolves in Cipières. Officials claimed that they killed the wolves as an act of defence for the local sheep herd. According to them, the wolf pack ‘specialised’ on killing sheep. The wolves were 3 months old. Not even old enough to hunt and kill a sheep. Local NGOs lost their trust in the so-called ‘Wolf Brigade’ and demand answers and explanations.
Italy kills a ‘problem’ bear
In Trentino, authorities killed a bear in the end of July. The bear had an encounter with a hiker earlier, followed by an encounter with a jogger and a dog. Presumably out of its own defence, the bear attacked in both incidents. Disregarding the protest to cancel the killing, the authorities allowed the killing of this proclaimed potential dangerous bear.
A dead lynx in south Germany
In the Saalach lake people found a dead lynx, missing it’s head and front legs. The lynx ‘Alus’ was part of an international conservation project in Austria and Italy. The cause of death has not yet been confirmed, but the German police is working closely together with the Austrian authorities. In case it was a crime, there is a reward of 15,000 euro for the tip that leads to conviction.
International protection and cooperation
Internationally protected species require international cooperation. Romania now wants to kill wolves and bears again, as locals claim that damages go out of control. Germany recently revealed that wolves cause only a fraction of the wildlife damage, and that we should worry about ungulates instead. The presence of bears and wolf, and every other EU protected species, is not only at the costs and risk of each individual country. All member of the European Union need to address this, together with the European Commission and the European Parliament. Countries should be eligible for financial support to compensate for the damages, since the species are a contribution to European nature conservation. And as the species is internationally protected by European Law, there are also European funds that can provide financial support to the local people for effective livestock (and beehive) management measures to minimise damages and conflicts.
Instead of killing all these animals, there is enough proof that protection measures can minimise conflicts. For example, the shepherd Knut Kucznik in Brandenburg. Since 2005 he has herd protection dogs among his 480 sheep and 50 goats. Kucznik lives in the middle of wolf-territory, only 60 km away from a wolf pack. Never has a wolf been able to attack and kill his livestock.
We are currently working on a handbook to inform anybody who is involved and interested on the best practices of herd management in Europe. The book will be available soon, combining international knowledge and experience to support a co-existance between humans and the European wild nature again.