European Wilderness Society

Will €500 Bounty on Wolves reduce Livestock Predation?

Recently, we have reported on the government approved emergency cull of wolves in Slovenia due to an increase in livestock attacks on often insufficient protected sheep compared to last year. Now, the conflict between farmers and wolves has escalated further. As hunters have not killed any wolf yet, farmers demand a speeding up of the cull as they believe this will stop further wolf attacks. The farmers organised a protest named “Slovenia will not be a menagerie“, requiring the resignation of the Minister of the Environment, Mr Simon Zajc. Additionally, Slovenian People’s Party (SLS) offered an unprecedented bounty of € 500 for each culled wolf as an incentive for a faster cull, reminding of the tactics in the medieval times and ignoring the FFH directive.

Wolf attacks on insufficient protected livestock are rare in relationship to the many other causes of sheep losses like lighting, disease and infections but nevertheless come at a cost for farmers. Many examples in Europe show that there are different ways to reduce the predation by wolves on sheep. The path taken in this situation was an attempt to cull the wolves instead of investing and assisting the livestock owners to implement livestock protection methods. However, the EU found that culling of wolves to reduce predation of sheep is highly ineffective and often counterproductive. As wolves hunt in packs, hunting of wolves, especially the alpha males or females, disrupts the pack, therefore resulting in smaller groups of wolves, which in return concentrate their hunting on smaller animals like sheep. Only an intact wolfpack is able to hunt red- and roe deer as well as wild boar, which constitute 99% of a wolf diet.

Can culling help?

Studies have shown that there is no correlation between wolf hunting and number of attacks, and culling may even increase the damages. Hunting is therefore an inefficient tool in depredation reduction. However, because of the European legislation, all European countries must conserve wolf populations at a favourable status. This clearly leads to the conclusion that to solve human-wolf conflict, an alternative way to hunting must be used.

Livestock protection using properly installed electric fences and livestock guarding dogs as well as shepherds has been proven to reduce livestock depredation effectively. Here it is important to realise that not all fences are suitable. Namely, the fence should be on lowlands 110cm high and in alpine regions 90cm and must have an electrical current of at least 3500 to 5000 volts. It must also have at least 5 wires with the lowest not more than 20cm above ground.

Recommended fences

ZaunartFixed fenceFlexinet
Number of wires4-5 wiresNet
Discharge energy5 to 6 Jouls5 to 6 Jouls
Discharge Voltagebest 5000 Voltbest 5000 Volt
Height110 cm90 -108 cm
1. wire20 cm20 cm
2. wire40 cm35 cm
3. wire60 cm45 cm
4. wire90 cm65 cm
5. wire110 cm90 cm
Additional InfoBlue and white plastic
flatttery at 120 cm
Blue and white plastic
flatttery at 120 cm

To conclude, culling will not reduce the risk of livestock predation by wolves since the wolves cannot be legally eradicated and will also continue to cross borders from other countries, in this case Croatia. However, if we want to prevent further livestock depredation, the only way forward is to assist farmers with the support of the European Union and the generous financial aids to invest in livestock prevention.

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