Aveyron farms now surrounded by wolves

In 2021, the attacks resumed insistently in Aveyron. And, a source of additional concern for Aveyron breeders, wolves have been formally identified in the department, but also in border areas.

The wolf is back in Aveyron. The observation is now shared by all. And if, a few years ago, before the violent waves of attacks in 2016, 2017 and 2018, the authorities were reluctant to recognize the presence of the canine.

But the relentlessness of the breeders who were victims of attacks, and the establishment by the prefecture of a wolf committee made it possible to work on the subject. If the attacks had decreased sharply from 2018, they resumed in 2020.

22 attacks certified in 2021

And that has continued over the past year. Last week, the secretary general of the prefecture, Isabelle Knowles, brought together the committee to take stock of the past year. At the level of raw statistics, 37 observations were made by the guards of the National Office for Hunting and Wildlife (ONCFS) during the past year, including 22 classified as “wolf not discarded”, the semantic subtlety to recognize a wolf attack, and which triggers compensation for breeders.

If these figures are still very far from the “best” years, with almost a hundred attacks in 2017 and 250 ewes killed, the resurgence of cases recorded at the end of 2021 is of great concern to breeders. According to the work of the committee, at least two wolves have been formally identified in Aveyron during the past year. The first thanks to clues found in the snow on the Aubrac, the second, thanks to photo traps on the Larzac. The distance between these two areas makes the hypothesis that it is the same beast rather unlikely.

9 defensive shots granted on the Larzac for the year 2022

It was one of the demands of farmers who gave voice in particular, in Millau, at the end of last year. They demanded authorizations for reinforced defensive fire, to protect the herds in the event of an attack. These should primarily be used to scare away wolves.

Indeed, the wolf being a protected species, you need authorizations to defend yourself against it. Nine reinforced defense firings are now authorized for the year 2022, allowing operations to be carried out in the municipalities of Millau, Nant, La Couvertoirade and Hospitalet-du-Larzac, municipalities where there have been at least three attacks in the last twelve months.

South Larzac also affected

Above all, if the breeders are worried, it is because Aveyron now seems well and truly surrounded by the canine, which has settled permanently in the territory. The Hérault, which has long been spared, is now plagued by the same problem, mainly in the Larzac Sud. The prefecture has also launched the same committee as in Aveyron, which estimates that there are at least four specimens in the department.

Two were formally identified at the beginning of 2022 by photo traps installed by the French office for biodiversity on the Larzac Hérault. There is nothing to confirm that one of them is not also the one observed in southern Aveyron given the short distance between the two areas. The wolf being able to cover many kilometers in one day, passages from one department to another are now a real possibility.

Wolves identified in Lozère, Tarn and Hérault

Especially since in the Hérault, two other specimens have been identified, one in the Caroux, near Rougier, the other in the Somail massif, near the Lacaune mountains. In the Tarn, two wolves were also spotted by the authorities, in bordering areas between the Tarn, the Hérault and the Aveyron and which, according to the authorities, caused around thirty victims (mainly sheep), in 2021 .

To complete this assessment, the wolf is also present in Lozère, and has been for years. It is also through this department that he seems to have arrived, from the Alps, a little less than ten years ago. Long very affected, Lozère farms, like what is also happening in Aveyron, are a little less affected now. However, in 2021, 22 attacks were classified as “wolf not ruled out”, causing more than 130 deaths in the herds. In Cantal, three attacks have taken place in the south of the department over the past year, again near Aveyron, without this time the wolf being formally identified.

no pack

A particularly worrying accumulation of wolves for Aveyron sheep breeders who, in their vast majority, need to leave their herds grazing for a good part of the year, to meet the specifications for the production of milk for Roquefort. The only reassuring point for the moment seems to be the fact that each time a wolf is identified, it is alone. It does not therefore seem that there is currently a pack, which could be much more deadly for the herds and also facilitate reproduction.

Financial aid to acquire herd guard dogs

To fight against attacks, the State is not content to grant defensive shots, or to bring in the wolf brigade, which is the only one authorized to kill wolves, a protected species, according to a highly regulated quota.

The State supports breeders in the protection of their herds through the allocation of aid to support the acquisition and maintenance of herd protection dogs up to 80%.

In 2021, eleven grant application files were submitted to the DDT under the rural development program. The files concern the financing of the purchase, maintenance and sterilization of guard dogs for a total amount of €17,528.

For 2022, 23 grant application files were sent to operators who had already submitted files in previous years or who had recently applied for them. Interested breeders not yet concerned are encouraged to approach the DDT.

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