Under the snowy peaks, a battle of numbers rages. In Haute-Savoie, hunters, farmers and ecologists are confused about the number of wolves and packs present in the mountain pastures. According to the latest count from the French Office for Biodiversity (OFB), in 2021, 74 wolves were circulating in the mountains of the department. Each year, the state authorizes the felling of 19 % of population at national level.
A situation that does not satisfy the world of hunting and the Departmental Federation of Farmers’ Unions (FDSEA). For them, pastoral life as a whole is in jeopardy. Since the arrival of the wolf in 2009 on the Glières massif, “ this predator continues to cause trouble in the heart of rural areassaid Reporterre the president of the hunting federation, André Mugnier. The wolf is no longer a protected species. If nothing is done, this already dramatic situation will worsen. »
- A wolf from the French park of Gévaudan. Flickr / CC BY–CN–n/a 2.0 / Loic Pinseel
Hand in hand, hunters and farmers dispute the estimates of theOFB. They advance a discrepancy of 30 % to 40 % between given figures and “ the reality on the ground » : “ In 2021, we killed seven wolves in the department but we should take at least 25 per year if we want to maintain a manageable number and regulate the species. »says André Mugnier.
In the press, the FNSEA and the hunting federation are increasing their attacks to discredit theOFB. A standoff is engaged and the hunters seem to have obtained a first victory, to the chagrin of environmentalists.
270,000 euros in subsidies for hunters
Because the Haute-Savoie department, chaired by a member of the Les Républicains party and close to Laurent Wauquiez, Martial Saddier, has awarded 270,000 euros in subsidies to the hunting federation to implement a wolf counting campaign, “ contradictory to that ofOFB ». This public aid is in addition to the 650,000 euros over five years allocated by the departmental council to the federation as well as the 304,100 euros over three years from the Auvergne Rhône-Alpes region – a region whose contacts with hunters are no longer at to prove.
More surprisingly, the State has also contributed 20,000 euros to this new project even though it calls into question the work of its own officials. Yielding to the sirens of farmers and the president of the FNSEAChristiane Lambert, who affirmed that “ I’OFB is lying »Julien Denormandie, then Minister of Agriculture, had already said he was in favor of a recount of the number of wolves.
Count more to kill more
This recount will now be carried out by hunters and farmers themselves, accompanied by wolf cubs. Subsidies from the public authorities will allow the purchase of a profusion of technical means, photographic traps, thermal cameras, drones and sound recorders, as well as vehicles.
For hunters, the objective of this count is clear and fully assumed: it is a question of quantifying more to shoot more. “ I call this operation the truthsaid Reporterre Andre Mugnier. We’ll see who’s wrong, but I think there are a lot more wolves than we’re told. This new count will allow us to sample more wolves. This will also challenge the estimate of theOFB on a national level. »
- Hunters. Flickr / CC BY–CN–n/a 2.0 / Philippe Druesne
In a press release, France Nature Environnement Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes cries foul: “ Money is flowing for opponents of the wolf »she wrote. “ With this grant, the state and the department humble the work of theOFBregrets his spokesperson, Roger Mathieu. They question the work carried out by 4,000 people in France and their method supported by scientists and the CNRS (Scientific Research National Center). It’s a shame. »
At the heart of the controversy, several issues are raised: how will hunters assess the number of wolves and according to what methodology? ? Don’t they also risk being judges and parties ?
“ We have to stop with this scientific approach »
“ This abundance of disparate technical means, with drones, etc., contrasts with the absence of a methodology to assess the relevance of the operation, its coherence and its robustness in scientific matters.emphasizes Roger Mathieu. In no country are thermal cameras or recorders used to count wolves, it simply allows their behavior to be studied. »
According to this specialist, who has been following around twenty packs in the Alps for years, there are many risks of error with these technical tools: “ It is very difficult on a video or a photograph to distinguish one wolf from another. Wolves are not counted as sheep in a pen. This is why we do not count but estimate. It is done through biological samples found on hair or droppings and genetic and statistical analyses. »
But for hunters, this methodology doesn’t seem to matter. “ I don’t care about geneticsgets carried away André Mugnier. This question does not interest me at all. The presence of wolves is insurmountable and they must be regulated. We have to stop with this scientific approach which makes it possible to gradually postpone the number of wolf samples when today there is an emergency. »
France Nature Environnement has already announced that it will reject the figures for hunters.