Alpine predators: Swiss vote on easing curb on shooting wild wolves

0
7
There are only an estimated 100 wolves live in the Swiss Alps and Jura mountains, but the government is supporting legislation that would make it easier to kill them. /Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters

There are only an estimated 100 wolves live in the Swiss Alps and Jura mountains, but the government is supporting legislation that would make it easier to kill them. /Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters

 

Switzerland is well-known for both its stunning mountains and its penchant for ruling by referendum. 

But on Sunday, these two national characteristics collide in what could be a real threat for the Alpine country’s burgeoning wolf population.

While there are only 100-plus wolves living in the Swiss Alps and Jura mountains, numbers have grown fast in recent decades, and so have complaints that the animals are increasingly killing farmers’ livestock. 

Now, Swiss voters are set to decide on whether to make it easier to shoot the predators in a highly contested referendum that has farmers and wolf advocates baring their teeth.

 

02:28

 

The law

The new Swiss hunting law, supported by many agricultural workers, would give regional authorities of the country’s 26 cantons more power to shoot wolves even before they strike if they are seen as a threat to sheep, goats or cattle.

Under the new rules, the animals would be designated as a protected but regulated species, and could be killed if they are deemed to have lost their fear of humans.

Current legislation states a wolf must attack 35 animals within four months, or 25 in a month, before national authorities can kill the animal. The number goes down to 15 if there were attacks in the previous year.

Once a wolf pack kills 15 livestock animals within four months, the government permits a cull of half of the young animals in the group.

Read more: Rare scene of wolf pack in north China’s virgin forest

 

Critics of the new legislation have also highlighted that the estimated 300-500 Swiss sheep, goats and cattle lost every year to attacks is only a fraction of the thousands killed by disease or accidents. /Denis Balibouse/ Reuters

Critics of the new legislation have also highlighted that the estimated 300-500 Swiss sheep, goats and cattle lost every year to attacks is only a fraction of the thousands killed by disease or accidents. /Denis Balibouse/ Reuters

 

Farming in fear

One farmer from the French-speaking canton of Vaud, Guy Humbert, said he was forced to install 10 kilometres of electric fencing at his farm in Nyon following a wolf attack on his animals in July.

“I haven’t slept well for the past two summers, every morning I wake up and this is with great apprehension that I look at my phone to check the news in the mountains, if there was an attack, if something happened during the night,” Humbert said.

Further up the mountain near the village of Ilanz, Swiss farmer Martin Keller says last year he lost 59 sheep to wolf attacks and had to install $35,000 worth of electric fencing.

“The law’s opponents are always talking about a ‘shoot-to-kill’ initiative,'” Keller said. “We don’t want to kill all the wolves. All we want is to be allowed to regulate problem wolves.”

Culling wolves is not new to Switzerland. In the 19th century, its wolf population was almost completely eradicated, but in recent decades, packs have started to return, crossing the border from Italy. 

There are now over 100 of the animals living in 11 packs, alongside lone wolves. 

However, for some farmers, this is still one too many.

Read more: Lynx, wolves captured on camera in southwest China nature reserve

 

Under Switzerland’s new hunting rules, wolves could be killed if they are deemed to have lost their fear of humans. /Denis Balibouse/Reuters

Under Switzerland’s new hunting rules, wolves could be killed if they are deemed to have lost their fear of humans. /Denis Balibouse/Reuters

 

Split opinion

One of the main concerns of Swiss wolf advocates is the law could be used in some cantons, particularly where wolf disdain is strong, to kill the animals outright. 

“Do wolves risk disappearing in Switzerland with this law? No,” says Swiss Wolf Group spokeswoman Isabelle Germanier. 

“Wolves will survive, they have a phenomenal adaptability, but it’s clear that now, the problem is not the wolves.”

She says some regions of Switzerland, including Vaud, could try to eradicate the animal again.

 

Switzerland’s last hunting law dates back to the 1980s, before wolf numbers started to increase. /Gruppe Wold Schweiz GWS/Handout via Reuters

Switzerland’s last hunting law dates back to the 1980s, before wolf numbers started to increase. /Gruppe Wold Schweiz GWS/Handout via Reuters

 

“We know that two out of the 26 cantons are a little bit reluctant regarding the presence of wolves, they are trying to push them gently towards their way out, they are failing, so poaching is one of the solutions:

“I think maybe now, we need to talk about the farmers’ issue, they need to be supported a bit more.”

Critics of the new legislation have also highlighted that the estimated 300-500 Swiss sheep, goats and cattle lost every year to attacks is only a fraction of the thousands killed by disease or accidents.

But with Switzerland’s last hunting law dating back to the 1980s, the government is supporting the new hunting legislation, saying it gives local authorities more power to protect live stock while allowing the wolf population to develop in Switzerland.

According to polls, Swiss voters remain divided on the issue, but the question is – whichever party one sees as the aggressor – whether the referendum will be enough to keep the wolves at bay.

Video editor: Riaz Jugon

Source(s): Reuters

Source link

Leave a Reply