How do you protect the wolf by protecting the sheep?

Many of the people we spoke to in our research “Who does nature belong to?” You fear that the wolf will attack the human in the end. Wolves are now increasingly being spotted in places outside of nature reserves, causing unrest. How do you justify these concerns?

“Wolves try to avoid humans as much as possible. This means that they are usually nocturnal, but when necessary, they also do a wander during the day occasionally. So it is impossible to prevent people from seeing a wolf now and then, especially in a densely populated country like the Netherlands. However, they will also try to avoid people as much as possible during the day.If the animals are tamed by feeding them, for example, they may get closer to humans, but this is not normal behaviour.

It is also true that if the wolf shows aggressive behavior towards people, then it can be removed. The welfare of the people is the highest priority for the government, and only then comes the wolf. In fact, it is also a recommendation from animal ecologists to remove the wolf in such a situation.”

But you also see that the wolf is increasingly attacking ungulates, cows and horses. Isn’t this also atypical behavior and a sign that the wolf is adapting to our system?

“No, this is not atypical behaviour, we also see it in Flanders and Germany. The wolf is a very simple hunter. It is light in weight and only has a strong jaw with few fangs. This is what we call a ‘low efficiency hunter’, unlike the lion or tiger, on the Example, who can really destroy prey with its claws.

Therefore, the wolf must rely on safe food that he can eat without the risk of infection. Especially the deer, the wild boar is actually very dangerous for him. The sheep is also easy prey for the wolf, because even you and I can kill a sheep without the risk of getting injured. When a wolf attacks large animals, the wolf is usually the old, weak, or sick animal. This is what you see now happening in Drenthe. In Flanders, for example, there are known cases where wolves attack double-billed cows. These animals are so heavy and large that they cannot even turn around so this is normal for a wolf. Those double-muscled cows can’t defend themselves at all, even if they are big.”

The wolf plays a very important role in nature. It is actually a conductor of the entire ecosystem. In Philoy, for example, we see that about 50 to 80 percent of all deer and pigs must be shot each year to keep the ungulate population in check. And the wolf can play a very important role in this because it hunts these animals precisely, but especially because ungulates begin to show different behavior when they know there is a predator in the area. This ensures more diversity in vegetation because everything is no longer grazing by ungulates; They avoid places where they are vulnerable to a predator.

What you only see is that the wolf is very mobile – it can run up to 30 kilometers per night – and it also ends up in a cultural scene. This is where the conflict now arises. So it also appears in areas where cattle are now bred after more than 100 years of absence from predators. Moreover, they are not safe from the wolf. The natural behavior of sheep to protect themselves from prey is to run quickly over a mountain slope, this is what they belong to. But in the Netherlands lowlands we put them in a meadow, with some wires around it so they don’t walk into the ditch themselves. But this is not appropriate to keep the wolves away.”

Do you understand the frustration and turmoil that has now arisen among sheep farmers, for example, who have been herding sheep in this way for years and are now suddenly threatened by the arrival of the wolf?

“Yes, I totally understand this frustration. I come from a farming family and I believe that as a country, as a society, as a citizen, consumer, and government, we have to do everything we can to see how we will help agriculture when it comes to the wolf.

In all fairness, the government has been doing this since 2010. All the reports are there, social organizations, sheep breeders, hunters, landowners are all involved, but somehow it has not yet reached the “workshop” of the farmer who has his cattle in the meadow. And I think there is still a lot to gain in terms of connectivity and routing. It’s about – very practical -: “How do you deal with that with such a fence.” But also to understand the additional task that livestock keepers face.”

Does this really help such a fence? Because we also hear stories from ranchers who have wolves-resistant fences, but still have to deal with a wolf attack.

“Fences work perfectly, but there is a difference between installing a fence that meets the technical requirements and installing a fence so good that the wolf cannot really reach it. Herein lies the difficulty in which farmers can be better guided. For example, make sure there is no trench under the fence, or Tell the farmer, as for the government, that the trench must also be fenced off, or else the wolf will come too.

Nothing is more frustrating than a farmer who finally proves his willingness to take action, invests time, energy and money and still has a wolf come to visit him. So make sure you are properly supervised to implement preventive measures. Don’t just supply an IKEA technical brochure with a package; This is also a recommendation from German colleagues who already have 20 years of experience with the wolf.”

What do you think of all this frustration, ambiguity, and confusion in support of the existence of the wolf?

“Protecting the sheep is protecting the wolves” is the expression. If you protect the livestock well, there is also a wolf support since there are fewer attacks. This protection has not yet been adequately implemented. If structural attacks continue to occur, support for wolves will decrease and people will take illegal actions. And despite the enormous penalties (the wolf is a protected animal, liberated) that he imposes, this may be the feeling that will arise among the population. This is why good and sustainable leadership is needed, in this case of the provinces.

I believe the government can do more to create an understanding of the situation and to engage and motivate livestock keepers more effectively to contribute to the protection of livestock. In most provinces there are support measures for preventive measures, but the willingness of livestock farmers to take advantage of them is minimal. There are ecological and legal reports on the wolf, but I think it is time to look at the social aspect: how do we get the transition we learn to live with the large predators of the Netherlands? We are facing some challenges with our country and that requires leadership.”

That leadership now rests with the provinces. Looks like this wolf doesn’t really stick to provincial boundaries. Shouldn’t there be more national oversight?

This is a discussion we often have about different files. Decentralization does not always have the desired consequences of the politics of nature, because it often makes it stickier and more difficult. And now with the wolf, you see it’s not helping either. Then something is devised centrally and individual districts also want to find something about it. And that’s fine, but probably not the most useful in urgent situations.”

More on the wolf next Sunday, November 20 in the Index: 10:10 p.m. on NPO2.

Leave a Comment