If Wolves are Protected in France, Why Are They Being Hunted?
The Big Bad Wolf stock figure of so many children's fairy tales, has surfaced again.
This time it's in France, where there has been an outcry from animal rights groups since wolf hunts have resumed due to increased attacks by the animals after their "European comeback."
Wolves were originally hunted to extinction by farmers in France back in the 1930s, but in 1992 a mating pair crossed the border from Italy. It is now estimated that there are around 300 individuals in 25 packs across France.
For many people, this is good news, but the Daily Telegraph reports that hunters, "wolf lieutenants," and local farmers have grouped together to carry out a cull on the animals after sheep farmers complained of incessant attacks on their flocks.
This is in spite of the fact that the wolf is a protected species under the Berne convention and European law, meaning that it can no longer be hunted or poisoned.
So how can these hunts be legal?
It turns out that there are exceptions to this rule.
Culls can take place when all other attempts at protecting local livestock have failed. Under a government wolf plan, some 24 individuals can be "removed" in this way per year.
As it happens, the attacks have been happening just 25 miles inland from the top tourist spot of Nice on the French Riviera, and just 15 miles from Grasse, known as France's perfume capital, which might explain the push for a cull. The hills in this region of the Var, called Caussols, have lost around 100 sheep to the grey wolf.
Conservation groups are understandably furious at the decision to re-introduce wolf-hunting.
"To return to wolf hunts as if we were in the Middle Ages is scandalous. That the local authorities are organizing them is even worse," said Jean-François Darmstaedter, president of Ferus, who threatened to challenge their legality in the European courts.
"We call them 'political killings' as their only aim is to allow farmers to let off steam but they will solve nothing. Blindly shooting wolves will have no effect other than to exacerbate the problem. If you kill the alpha male, you can split up a pack, which will cause far more damage."
And in fact, public opinion today is very much on the wolf's side. A recent poll, commissioned by a pro-wolf group, found that 80 percent of French people wanted wolves to be protected from farmers, rather than sheep from wolves.
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Wolf image via Shutterstock.