France forms 'anti-wolf brigade' will protect livestock amid concern about growing number of wolf attacks
Photo: Rex Features
France is to form an “anti-wolf brigade” to protect sheep and other livestock amid concerns that attacks are on the rise as the predators colonise new parts of the country.
The brigade will consist of 10 hunters to be recruited and trained by the end of next month, Ségolène Royal, the environment minister, announced at the weekend.
The officers will be posted with livestock breeders who have suffered repeated attacks. Initially they will operate mainly in Provence and the Hautes Alpes, but wolf brigades could also soon be created in other areas.
“Wolf attacks have doubled in five years,” said Ms Royal, President Hollande’s former partner. About 8,500 sheep have been killed in France in the past 12 months.
The government has increased the number of wolves that can be killed annually to 36 from 24 last year. A young male grey wolf was shot dead last week in Savoie, in the south-east.The wolf was hunted to the brink of extinction in France in the 1930s but has made an astonishing comeback after crossing from Italy in the mid-1990s.
Wolves are pushing ever further north, with attacks reported in 27 “départements” of France, three times more than five years ago. The wolf population has tripled in the past 10 years and is now estimated to number about 300. Sightings have been reported within 100 miles of Paris.
A couple came face to face with a grey wolf while out walking near the village where they live in Aveyron, in the south of France, last week.
Floriane Boulon and Antony Villani observed the wolf for 15 minutes and took a series of photos, which allowed experts to confirm that it was a wolf. “We weren’t scared because we knew that wolves don’t attack people,” Mr Villani said.
Ms Boulon described it as “an improbable, moving and surprising encounter that won’t happen twice in our lives.”
More than 60,000 people have signed a petition against the killing of wolves. Under strict government guidelines, warning shots must be fired before they are killed.