What advice do you give to breeders to protect their herd from wolves?

My first piece of advice is to anticipate. This wolf may pass his way, but others will come. Its presence must therefore be taken as an alert. You should not rush but first find out about the guard dog as well as the wolf itself because this cannot be improvised. Some wolves cross fences, some don’t. Some challenge the dogs, some don’t. Some are sensitive to human presence, others less so.

We can no longer, 30 years after the return of the wolf to France, be in such denial and send future peasants to hell

There is no infallible means of protection. So you need several and correlate them. Sound and light scaring devices are generally offered in an emergency, but they only have a temporary effect as the animal gets used to them. This knowledge should be included in agricultural trainings. We can no longer, 30 years after the return of the wolf to France, be in such denial and send future peasants to hell.

How to choose your protection dog? Which breeds to favor?

There are breeds of which it is easier to find pastoral strains because they are more widespread in areas of predation. The Spanish morning, the Cao de Gado Transmontano, the Pyrenees mountain, the Abruzzo shepherd are to be preferred for a beginner. But, beyond the breed, the lineage with balanced dogs, little barkers, with a good attachment are to be preferred for the parents of your future puppy. And, within the scope, choose a balanced individual, neither aggressive, neither fearful nor too reckless.

Return of the wolf to Brittany: advice from a specialist to protect his herd
(Photo Simon Marvel)

Have you yourself been confronted with attacks and suffered losses?

Yes, three times. We work, in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, in a predation zone with two packs of wolves in the area. The latest attack involved an adult Jersey cow this fall, which was seriously injured and had to be euthanized. We are, to date, still awaiting compensation without knowing the amount.

In your opinion, should the compensation system be reviewed?

Compensation varies according to different criteria such as the type of animal, whether it was dairy or lactating, young or in production, etc. It is therefore complex to give precise figures… But the genetic value, late abortions following the stress of an attack or even the drop in lactation of the animals present in the herd are not sufficiently taken into account. If I am asked if it is possible to make money on the back of compensation or if a balance is found to properly compensate for losses, the answer is clearly no.

Does the arrival of the wolf in Brittany surprise you? Is it sustainable, in your opinion?

The wolf was already present and reproducing in many European countries and a multitude of French departments… Who could believe that it would not arrive in Brittany? It is nevertheless one of the species of carnivores, with the fox, the most plastic that there is. From peri-urban areas to mountain ranges, passing through scrubland, marshes or hedgerows, it has the ability to adapt to almost anything, except high human density.

Brittany is full of game, there are many quiet areas and abundant water. The climate there is mild and the structure of the bocage will make it difficult to see. The factor hindering its development will be, as in all countries where urbanization is quite significant, poaching and especially collisions on the roads.

The wolf is back in Brittany