According to government figures, wolf numbers in Germany are increasing by 36% annually. They are now crossing the eastern border into Drenthe province, which is home to 32 cows and sheep. Because they may be becoming more fearful of humans, authorities in some parts of the Netherlands have permitted wolves to get shot with paintballs.
The animal is afforded strict legal protection status in the EU Habitats Directive, which helps conserve Europe’s most vulnerable and valuable species. This means that any form of intentional capture or killing of wild wolves is prohibited.
A group of European farmers, landowners, and hunters claimed that the nature legislation was not effective in protecting large carnivores, such as wolves, and it had had an adverse effect on commercial activities.
“Due to ongoing successful conservation measures, certain populations of large carnivore species are causing increased conflicts,” the groups said in a joint statement, saying current laws prevented them from implementing measures to “reduce serious conflicts with livestock, people, and biodiversity-rich landscapes”.
Thursday’s European Parliament vote, 306 to 225, passed a resolution calling for the European Commission to reduce the protection status of wolves/bears to protect livestock and to manage human potential risk.
Herbert Dorfmann, an Italian MEP with the European People’s Party, said it should not be taboo to discuss the need for managing wolf populations.
“Growing populations of large predators are threatening the traditional way of farming in several European countries,” he said. “Faced with large carnivore attacks, farmers feel desperate, misunderstood and powerless.”
In Slovakia, a new law that protects wolves year round was passed in June 2021. This issue has caused bitter divisions between the agricultural community as well as environmental activists. Farmers alleged an increase in numbers and attacks, but the country’s government has no official figures showing an actual increase in the population.
Reineke Hameleers, chief executive of the Brussels-based campaign group Eurogroup for Animals, said wolves were “beautiful” creatures that had been “unfairly persecuted.”
She Six out of nine European wolf populations were considered to be at risk or very near death. In six of seven EU biogeographical regions, favourable conservation status was not achieved.
Hameleers said that culling was not the answer, but that instead farmers must find “collaborative and fair solutions”, such as raising fences, adding electric wires and guarding dogs.
Janez Lenarcic was the European Commissioner for Crisis Management. She said that the 27 member state wolf populations remained fragile.
He He stated that the current number of sheep in danger was only 0.0%, and added that he didn’t believe there was an imminent crisis in sheep farming due to large carnivores.
“We need to act very carefully. We believe that strict protection status is still necessary to be able to achieve and to maintain a favourable conservation status,” he said.
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