French farmers face new blitzkrieg from wolves
In the 1930's wolves became extinct in France. Sixty years later, wild wolves crossed over the Alps from Italy into France. This group has since expanded to up to 200 individuals in 20 different packs. The wolves have spread to cover 15 out of 94 départements (map) reaching North to the Vosges in Lorraine and West to Cantal in Auvergne (map), and occupying the French Pyrenees for the first time in a century.
The presence of the wolves has caused considerable distress to French shepherds — particularly in the French Pyrenees, where they are forced to contend with a growing wolf population, along with a now-discontinued government plan to reintroduce brown bears.
The government reports 1329 animals killed by wolves in 2011 as of July 22, mostly sheep. Another source says there have been 66 wolf attacks, almost as many as in the entire period of 2010. Adding to the unhappiness are EU laws that prevent shooting the wolves without authorisation.
One alternative that has been suggested is the use of Patou dogs (also known as Great Pyrenees) which have historically been used to guard against wolves. This is also a controversial suggestion; some shepherds claim the dogs are worse than the wolves, as they can attack tourists. Cases have even been reported of anti-Patou shepherds poisoning the dogs.
Jean-Marc Moriceau, wolf expert and author, says that wolves will, at their current rate of progress, reach the forests 50 miles South of Paris in 10-15 years. Although the spread of the wolves is a welcome occurrence for environmentalists, it is likely to fuel more anger and friction between farmers and the wolves unless some sort of solution can be reached.