The alpine season has begun and with it the discussion about the return of the wolves to their old homeland. According to the WWF, there are currently around 45 wolves living in Austria. In addition to three confirmed packs, 36 individuals were also detected in 2021. These are mainly young wolves from neighboring countries that are roaming through Austria in search of new territories.
Promote herd protection and pastoralism
“People are used to the sight of deer, deer and wild boar, but not to the sight of wolves,” said WWF wolf expert Christian Pichler. Still, that’s not reason enough to quit. The nature conservation organization is therefore calling for more support in the development of herd protection and a revival of pastoralism based on the Swiss model.
Measures based on the Swiss model
“It doesn’t work without herd protection. After years of heated discussions, that’s the consensus even in circles critical of wolves in Switzerland,” says Daniel Mettler from the Swiss agricultural advice center AGRIDEA. For him kills are part of management, but not the first choice. “In particular, shepherding and protection dogs effectively keep wolves away in the Alpine region. At the same time, consistent herd management enables better pasture management and reduces other causes of death such as rockfalls, lightning strikes or diseases,” says Mettler.
Valuable role of wolves in nature
Experts have long emphasized the important role wolves play in nature: “Wolves curb the spread of diseases and plagues by preying on sick and weak wildlife. You will also help the hunters in decimating the high population of hoofed game and thus reducing major damage to the young forest.” Pichler emphasizes that the far too high number of deer or wild boar causes damage caused by browsing in the millions every year.
At the same time, however, hardly any funds would flow to enable a conflict-free coexistence with wolves. “The wolf is strictly protected throughout Europe for good reason. Unfortunately, there are still far too few sheep at the moment,” says Pichler. He pleads for better management. In Switzerland, on the other hand, regulated herding and the use of protection dogs effectively keep wolves away.
Successes in Tyrol
“The first successes in livestock protection pilot projects can be seen in Tyrol. Progress has also been made in terms of promotion and information. But there is still a lot to do. Other states are still lagging far behind. The state of Carinthia, for example, is still completely letting farmers down. There is a lack of factual information and the political will to better protect livestock.”Pichler shows understanding for the uncertainty of those affected.