- Eight endangered wolves found dead since early November
- The murderers left bodies in town squares and on the stairs of a theater
- Sheep farmers believed to be behind killings
- The decimated flocks of sheep have ruined many farmers in the area.
- Since their reintroduction, Tuscany’s wolf population has increased to 230
- The deaths have sparked a dispute between conservation groups and local farmers.
Repopulation: wolves were reintroduced to Tuscany from the Abruzzo mountains in the 1990s, thanks to EU funding
Its medieval towns, scorching valleys and free-flowing Chianti have made Tuscany a hit with British expats and tourists. But in recent weeks the peaceful valleys have been shaken by a predatory serial killer.
Eight endangered native wolves have been found dead since the beginning of November, and three new carcasses have turned up in the last week alone.
In an apparently political gesture, the killer, or killers, have displayed the bodies in places where they will be widely seen, in village squares and, in one case, on the steps of a theater.
All but one of the protected animals were shot, while the others were strangled. The killings are believed to be the work of an exasperated sheep farmer carrying out a personal vendetta following attacks on his flock.
Veterinarian Marco Aloisi, director of a local wildlife recovery center, said exposing the wolves’ bodies to the public appeared to be “a protest.”
Wolves were reintroduced to Tuscany from the mountains of Abruzzo in the 1990s, thanks to EU funding.
IMF furniture millionaire Paul Lister has similar plans to reintroduce wolves to his estate in Alladale, Scotland, even though they became extinct in the UK in the 17th century.
Wolves in Italy have been increasing in number, as illegal hunting by farmers has become less common, and there are now an estimated 230 in Tuscany.
The herds usually live high in the Apennine mountains, but are pushed into farmland by cold weather or when they cannot find enough prey.
In the last two years they have ventured lower than ever. According to official figures, wolves were responsible for 1,000 attacks on sheep, cows and horses in 2012.
Since then, a surge in looting attacks has decimated herds in the coastal district of Maremma.
Growing problem: Wolves in Italy have increased in number, as illegal hunting by farmers has become less common, and there are now an estimated 230 in Tuscany.
Activism: Conservation groups have organized protests, calling for swift justice for those behind the murders.
In some areas production has been cut in half, bringing farmers to the brink of ruin.
Regional projects to limit damage caused by wolves, including traps and specially trained dogs, have largely failed.
Many sympathize with the farmers’ frustration.
Local MP Luca Sani, chairman of the agriculture committee in the lower house of parliament, said: “Killing wolves is a cause for great concern. However, it would be irresponsible to bury our head in the sand and not recognize that this action is a worrying sign of the exasperation our farmers feel.’
Conservation groups have organized protests calling for quick justice. James Bottinelli, spokesman for the group A law against vivisection in Grosseto, said: “Whoever kills an animal is a criminal and must be arrested, especially in a case like this, in which it is a serial killer.”
Businessman Paul Lister has similar plans to those in Tuscany and wants to reintroduce wolves into the Scottish wilds, on his farm in Alladale.