Attacks on sheep flocks attributed to wolves: what the figures published by the Biodiversity Office reveal

Attacks on sheep flocks attributed to wolves: what the figures published by the Biodiversity Office reveal
Attacks on sheep flocks attributed to wolves: what the figures published by the Biodiversity Office reveal

Larzac farmers are frequently affected by attacks on sheep flocks, often attributed to wolves. The French Biodiversity Office publishes its figures.

How many wolves are present on French territory? It is difficult to answer precisely this question which is of so much interest to farmers and in particular to those in South Aveyron, who are frequently affected by attacks on their herds. However, to try to answer this, each year, the national wolf group publishes estimates. The latest has just been made public and shows an average of 1,003 wolves in the territory. This apparently very precise figure is the average of a range established between 750 and 1,350 individuals recorded, according to genetic results from the “capture-marking-recapture” method.

How to interpret this figure?

Wolf defense associations immediately sounded the alarm following the publication of this figure. “This is particularly worrying information, note the associations Ferus, LPO, Aspas, WWF, FNE and Humanity & Biodiversity in a press release. With this estimate which concretizes the scientific alerts, it is the responsibility of the government to immediately lower the ceiling of authorized destructions for 2024 taking into account this new estimate and by modifying the “technical note” of the prefect coordinating the National Action Plan “wolf and breeding activities”, and to stop advocating a downgrading of the level of protection of the species, this new estimate reinforcing the observation that it is not in a good state of conservation.”

Obviously, this analysis makes Cercle 12, the breeders’ defense association, cringe. “How can we believe in this drop in numbers when at the same time on a national scale it is announced (at this same meeting) an increase in damage to herds and when locally we see an increase in attacks and signs of the presence of wolves , asks Mélanie Brunet, the president, from the Causse de Sauveterre, to Larzac via Lévézou, Aubrac, Mont-Lozère, Caroux and even Aigoual, wolves are now everywhere and more and more numerous since. ‘They breed in this territory.’ Indeed, according to the data communicated by the OFB during this meeting, damage to herds attributed to wolves is increasing, according to the general trend.

“Not a collapse” of the species in France

The interpretation is completely different on the side of the state services, responsible for publishing this much-watched data each year. During this meeting, the French Biodiversity Office noted an “apparent stabilization, to be monitored in the coming years to assess population dynamics”. Indeed, in 2022, the estimate was 1,104 wolves (the figure used by associations defending the species) but the confidence interval was between 825 and 1,635 individuals. “We remain in the same statistical range,” analyzes an observer of the file. “It’s really not “collapse”, or even “towards extinction? (wolves in France)”, as we unfortunately read in the press release”, he continues. In a letter, addressed to members of the wolf-lynx network of Aveyron, the State services clarify: “The comparison between two years is not sufficient to conclude on the evolution of the population, it is essential to “have the benefit of looking back over several years to produce a reliable interpretation of the demographic trend.”

Remuneration following the attacks mentioned

This national group was an opportunity for Fabienne Buccio, the prefect coordinating the national action plan on wolves and breeding activities, “to invite all the prefects of the departments concerned to implement all the measures making it possible to support breeders before the arrival of the wolf, thus bringing to 70 the number of departments eligible for the protection aid system”, of which Aveyron is one.

This meeting made it possible to present avenues of work regarding the remuneration of farmers following attacks on herds. This takes into account in particular losses in the herd, disruption of the herd (abortions, drop in lactation, genetic selection aspect, etc.).

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