Monday, January 7, 2013

Wolves on the pistes

There was another sighting of a wolf on the piste last week, at Valloire in the Maurienne valley (i.e. one valley away from the Tarentaise and Les Arcs).  Wolves have been protected in France for several decades, and having no natural predators other than man, the population has increased exponentially since 1992. There are few mountainous, wooded or forested areas in southern France that have not experienced some kind of loupine activity recently, not least the Alps and now, Savoie.

The wolf is by nature a shy creature, and will only risk contact with human beings if extremely hungry and especially if raising cubs (much like foxes in this respect). So as the wolf population has grown, and their natural predation resources thinner on the ground, they have become bolder, and there are now frequent reports of attacks on herds of sheep, goats and even dogs and cats.

Naturally farmers and shepherds are literally 'up in arms' over the wolf, and there have been prosecutions for illegal shootings of  wolves, even when they appear to threaten livestock. On the other hand, farmers can claim compensation of about €100 euros per animal for proven wolf attacks, so perhaps turning a blind eye could be good for a shepherds cashflow. Following much controversy and outrage, there is now a National Wolf Plan (see Wolf in France for details) which aims to conserve the wolf population at sustainable levels while protecting livestock and domestic animals through the imposition of 'wolf-free zones'. I suppose it's all a question of how long its going to take the wolves to learn to read the exlcusion area warning signs...

It's only a matter of time before a wolf is spotted here in Les Arcs. Apparently at their current rate of expansion there will be wolves in the forests around Paris within the next 60 years, maybe sooner. In case you think you have spotted one from a chairlift, here's what their prints look like:

Just be careful where you tuck into your picnic ham sandwiches!

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