Wolf in Germany is part of it, but it’s a headache

Sheep farmer Wendelin Schmücker in Winsen, Germany, located between Hamburg and Lüneburg in Lower Saxony, raises sheep meat on his land. With his flock totaling 650 German Zwartkop sheep, he is one of the largest sheep breeders in northern Germany and the only one left in the wider region.

There is a reason why Schmücker is one of the last sheep breeders. Because of the arrival of the wolf, many sheep farmers in Lower Saxony stopped working. Farmers around Lüneburg have been dealing with wandering wolves since 2006. The first pack settled there in 2012. Ten years later, the wolf population in Lower Saxony numbered at least 34 of some 160 packs across Germany, with a total of about 1,200 wolves in Lower Saxony.

You can see that coming. After Wendy “dies,” with the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, the wolf advanced from Poland and came to us through the states of Brandenburg and Saxony-Anhalt, according to Schmocker’s analysis, which remained quiet in appearance.

Grazing rotation schedule

Schmocker grazed his animals in a rotational scheme on his 85 hectares of scattered plots, in five or six groups. At the end of the year the whole flock goes to the stable in one piece, which is about 8 km hike through a forest where a pack of wolves are also present. In the winter months, the ewes are in two periods of six weeks each.

If we can solve the problems about the wolf here, there is a future for us

Wendelin Schmücker, a sheep farmer in Winsen, Germany

The courage of sheep breeders cannot be denied. In the last months of the year he kept all 650 animals together in one group behind a 1.20m high electric net on the plot furthest from the farm. “Get used to the wolf around you. So far we’ve managed to limit the damage.

The farmer himself was subjected to three attacks. “The last time was in 2018, when three out of a hundred animals from this pack died and eventually had to euthanize eighteen. However, 23 animals fell victim to a wolf attack 5 km from here earlier this year.

Relatively quiet

Schmücker became a well-known figure in northern Germany as an advocate for the rights of wolf victims. It’s relatively quiet in the neighborhood now. Certainly in the early years we had to fight hard for, among other things, good compensation and, above all, management measures. Nothing is arranged for it.

To prove that the sheep breeders were serious, he applied for a gun permit, which caused a lot of commotion. The permit eventually took four years to obtain, in part because of the interception process. “I don’t have a gun and I’m not a hunter, but if I had to, I wanted to be able to stand up for my animals.”

The farmer took up the fight by sending a letter to state president Stefan Peter Weil of Lower Saxony in 2014, after cattle ranchers in the state lost more and more animals in the attacks. There are relatively few sheep breeders here, but those who have been attacked often get hit hard. In 2020, 101 cattle were killed on sheep farms.

guard dogs

Across Germany, nearly 4,000 animals fell prey to wolves in 2021. Precautions such as fencing, electrical wiring and guard dogs are paid for by the government. It cost the state 9.5 million euros.

To be eligible for compensation after a wolf attack, breeders must prove that they have taken adequate preventive measures. Last year, 800,000 euros were paid in damages in Germany.

By increasing political pressure, among other things by regularly seeking publicity, the sheep farmers of Lower Saxony arranged a compensation plan and a management plan was worked out. The sheep farmer concludes, “The current state government has become aware of our interests, but unfortunately the federal government in Berlin is not yet ready for this.”

Shoot problem wolves

Farmers in Lower Saxony receive 150 euros for each lost animal and 200 euros for pregnant ewes. This quickly includes large amounts: a thousand animals in 2020, a little less in 2021. In addition, it is also possible to shoot problem wolves, something the state government has now done eight times. Although it also led to action from animal protectors who thought the wrong wolves had been shot.

Schmocker stresses that despite a compensation plan and management plan, the necessary expertise and a much larger living space than in the Netherlands, sheep farmers in northwest Germany still have a hard time dealing with the wolf. With the wolf population increasing, it is almost impossible to keep up. The number of attacks is still increasing and many sheep farmers are giving up. Take my colleague, Kay Krugman, on the road. He’s 41 and now working somewhere.

Determine the habitat

Is there a solution to the problem? If it was up to Schmocker, yes. You set habitats for the wolf and enforce them. This also means that ramp must be possible and applied. It is also possible according to the European Directive for Animals. This has been happening for some time in countries like Sweden and France and now with us in Germany. Wolves are smart animals: if you keep them shy and manage to catch enough game, they won’t attack farm animals anymore.

Schmücker wants to keep raising sheep, even though pulling out wolf-proof electrical grids in the spring and summer is a hell of a business. We are the third generation of sheep farmers here, and my eighteen year old daughter Mike is training to be a sheep farmer herself. If we solve the problems around the wolf, there is a future for us. And I am a fighter: if the next government reverses the administration, I will return to the barricades.

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