EC may ease wolf protection to allay livestock farmers’ fears

EC may ease wolf protection to allay livestock farmers’ fears

The European Commission (EC) is weighing whether to adjust rules to limit protection for wolves as resurgent numbers cause growing tensions among farmers anxious about the safety of their livestock.

An announcement by the EC on Monday comes almost a year after a wolf killed a pony belonging to European Union President Ursula von der Leyen at her family farm in Hannover, Germany, in early September last year.

“The concentration of wolf packs in some European regions has become a real danger for livestock and potentially also for humans,” von der Leyen said, urging local and national authorities to act “where necessary.”

Environmental experts and others estimate there could be as many as 19,000 wolves spread across the 27 EU member states. Wolf populations of 1,000-plus are believed to roam in Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Poland, Romania and Spain. Their numbers are estimated to have grown by 25% in the last ten years.

In most of Europe, wolves are a protected species. People have grown unaccustomed to living close by them. Traditional methods of managing and protecting livestock from their predations have fallen out of practice.

But now the EC says it wants to “modify, where appropriate, the status of protection” of wolves. It would like to overhaul the rules “to introduce, where necessary, further flexibility,” depending on how their numbers have evolved.

In order to bring this about, the EC is asking local communities, scientists and other interested parties to provide fresh data about wolf populations and their impact by September 22, just two weeks away. An appeal for information in April failed to “provide a full picture sufficient” for action to be taken, the EC said. Hence the new deadline.

Asked whether the EC was seeking a cull of wolves, spokesman Adalbert Jahnz would only say that “we are hoping to get a full and accurate, up-to-date, picture of the situation in order to be able to take any further measures that are necessary.”

Meanwhile, Environment Minister Steffi Lemke told the German newspaper Die Welt on Monday that she hopes to offer proposals by the end of the month making it easier in Germany to shoot wolves so as to protect grazing livestock from their attacks.

Doing so should be possible “more quickly and with less bureaucracy,” she told the daily. “If dozens of sheep are attacked and lie dead on the pasture, then it is a tragedy for every animal farmer and a very big burden for those affected.”


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