Ardéchoises, Ardéchois, the wolf must bring us together, not divide us!

Ardéchoises, Ardéchois, the wolf must bring us together, not divide us!
Ardéchoises, Ardéchois, the wolf must bring us together, not divide us!

1. Wolves still very rare, still unviable

The wolf, back in Ardèche since 2012, is once again making a lot of talk. The latest official data available on the ground concerning attacks on domestic livestock since 1er January 2024 gives as of May 16: 11 animals (8 sheep and 3 goats) assessed as predated by the wolf. On the other hand, 22 were assessed as predated by an animal other than the wolf (most often dogs) and 4 are still under assessment. This only concerns 7 municipalities.

Conclusion: there is currently a very small number of wolves in Ardèche which from time to time kill one or two domestic animals in much smaller numbers than wandering dogs.

Note that on a national scale, the wolf population has been estimated for 2023 at 1,104 individuals, which is well below the species’ viability threshold. For this, the wolf is protected on a national and continental scale, it is classified “vulnerable to extinction” by IUCN.

The scientific counting method (estimation) practiced in France by the OFB is transparent, adapted to the field, approved, reliable and validated on an international scale. It certainly makes it the best-monitored wild animal in our country.

2. A rural majority very favorable to the wolf

Our nature protection associations are in the field, have pastoralism support programs or conduct public surveys. Programs such as “Parole de loup” or “Parole de Patou” (Ferus) have for years shown rural populations still overwhelmingly favorable to the presence of wolves.

An opinion study carried out last autumn (Savanta, November 2023) allows us to see things more clearly, it concerned 10,000 rural inhabitants of 10 member states of the European Union:

– 74% of French rural people contacted want strict measures to protect large carnivores (including wolves).

– 76% of French rural people believe that breeders should implement available measures to protect their animals from large carnivores.

– 83% of rural French people make the conservation of natural species (including wolves) a priority.

An additional clue: the three films by Jean Michel Bertrand on the necessary cohabitation with the wolf were fascinating and sold out to many cinemas in Ardèche.

Thus, in Ardèche as elsewhere, the wolf only really bothers a small fraction of the population which should not be abandoned to its fate, quite the contrary.

3. An impacted minority, to be seriously helped

It is primarily sheep and goat breeders who can be impacted by wolves. The latter rarely attacks horses and cattle, even if in recent years this has increased slightly for cattle.

When the presence of wolves is proven, breeders benefit from significant national solidarity. The State, via the prefecture and the DDT, provides substantial aid to relieve breeders and enable the preventive protection of herds:

– livestock vulnerability diagnostics;

– provision of protection dogs (patous) with education and food;

– provision of protective fences (particularly for the night);

– salaries of shepherds and shepherd helpers;

But the breeders are not satisfied: these measures, essential because they are effective when the wolf is there, are costly in terms of time and energy and the breeders often pay 20%. This can and must be improved (see point 4).

There are also shooting authorizations that the Wolf Plan has further facilitated despite the opposition of more than 98% of those consulted on this subject.

4. What real and lasting solidarity with breeders?

We indeed consider that these potentially lethal shots do not allow the herds to be properly protected. On the one hand because one wolf killed does not prevent a second one from arriving. We also see (example of Diois) that where packs are well established, protection of herds is easier. Probably because the shooting breaks up the packs which rather hunted wild prey (often requiring group hunting): the shooting frees isolated individuals who are more inclined to attack domestic herds.

In Ardèche, we will ensure strict compliance with the law: there can be no all-out wolf hunting in the presence of unprotected herds. The signal in the direction of the wolf would be distorted.

It will be much more judicious, in a medium and long term perspective, to focus on non-lethal scare shots, too little taken into account by the current Wolf Plan: not killed but frightened, the wolf tends to turn education from his pack towards the distrust of the protected herd.

Likewise, declaring many farms as “unprotectable” is not doing breeders a favor: the incantation does not work and the wolf will come anyway. This arbitrary status does not make it possible to prevent and eliminate damage caused by erratic wolves and it does not lead to changes in practices making it possible to anticipate the installation of new packs.

It is therefore deluding ourselves to rely on the double error of “all shooting” and “non-protectability”.

The APNs propose much more effective measures if we really and seriously want to help breeding vigorously, such as:

– In the new “permanent presence zones” (ZPP), consider setting up mobile shepherd brigades as soon as there are centers of predation become established permanently. (…)

– For support the effective implementation of means of protecting herds (establishment + regular technical verification), mobilize all available human resources (guards of nature reserves and national parks, assistant shepherds, project managers for regional natural parks, jobs dedicated to this function, integration projects, associations , etc.).

– Systematically form brigades of mobile shepherds in territories where damage is recurrent and remains at a significant level in order to enable breeders and/or shepherds to face crisis situations

Promote initiatives from associative actors facilitating the implementation of means of protecting herds. (example of the Ferus “Pastoraloup” program: in the heart of the wolf areas of the Alps and Jura in 2023, 23 breeders supported, 90 volunteers, 0 predations !).

Our associations are not waiting for the crisis to attack the wolf: they are working continuously for sustainable pastoralism compatible with the super predator. 41 very concrete proposals can be found in our document “Proposals for the future Wolf Plan and breeding activities”. It is up to political leaders to tackle it with courage and honesty if the objective is really to help the pastoral world.

5. The wolf, an attractive species for a preserved territory

The vast majority of us rural people are attached to the wolf, for several reasons. It is a superb animal with a fascinating social organization. It also plays an essential role for the health of ecosystems (and therefore for our own health!). It predates but also disperses herbivores which thus attack less young trees essential to the regeneration of the forest (pressure from roe deer, deer, etc.), it also attacks wild boars, potentially reducing the impact of overpopulations in Ardèche. .

It is also the Source of a very rich imagination (tales, literature) and artistic (sculpture, engraving, photographs, films, documentaries, etc.). Various visitors do not hesitate to come to Ardèche to follow in the footsteps of wolves. An entire human world is being formed, at peace with this animal which represents a rediscovered, attractive and preserved natural territory. In Ardèche, respectful and quality forest tourism can thus be very easily associated with it. To be linked to the discovery of sustainable and consolidated pastoralism which shows how cohabitation is possible and offers quality production, putting man back into and not against the ecosystem.

6. Joining forces for a shared cause: sustainable breeding

As we can see, the return of the wolf can be a magnificent opportunity to launch a real solidarity project on a territorial scale. Farmers, Hunters, Environmentalists, Hikers, Scientists, Sportsmen, Naturalists, State Services, Local Authorities, Municipalities, Nature Reserves, NFBs and Regional Parks, the wolf must mobilize us and allow us to create society without tearing ourselves apart.

Once is not custom, Canis lupus offers us a great opportunity to work together to truly support both sustainable livestock farming in Ardèche, because we care about it, and biodiversity. Let us not waste this opportunity by dividing the different groups and pitting them against each other: on the contrary, let us affirm together and in action thatin Ardèche, the wolf is with us and with us all!

Contact FRAPNA 07 Wolf: 04 75 93 41 45

Acronyms cited:

FRAPNA: Federation of Ardèche Nature Protection Associations.

OFB : French Office for Biodiversity

DDT: Departmental Directorate of Territories

NFB : National Forestry Office

APN : Nature Protection Association

IUCN : International Union for Conservation of Nature.

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