At the end of February and beginning of March, Bioland Bavaria held two online information evenings regarding livestock protection. Over 60 participants watched the presentations and were able to ask questions.
Experiences from Italy
After a welcome from Otto Gasselich and Peter Karner, the project leader from Bio Austria, Martin Hermele of Bioland Beratung in Bavaria reported on the most important insights gained on a project excursion in Majella National Park last September. The sparsely populated national park lies in the southern part of Abruzzo, Italy, and has the highest density of wolves in Europe with 10 packs in 740 km2. A few, highly endangered Marsican brown bears also inhabit the area. Sheep are primarily kept, by around 120 farms.
The associated livestock protection consists of three elements. During the day the sheep are watched over by experienced shepherdesses and shepherds, including in the presence of wolves. At night the sheep are kept in fixed, electrically or mechanically reinforced night pens. During the day livestock guarding dogs of the Maremmano Abruzzese breed accompany the flock with their shepherdess or shepherd. The dogs are characterised by an independent work ethic and a friendly disposition around people and other dogs. Altogether livestock protection works very well, and wolves and bears are widely accepted in the area.
How does livestock protection work in Bavaria?
Christoph Schinagl, also a consultant at Bioland, informed participants about the current opportunities of how livestock protection in Bavaria is supported by the state. The decision on if and in what circumstances livestock protection measures are supported depends on the regional scenario. This scenario was developed by the State Office of the Environment and is updated based on occurences and evidence of wolves.
In Bavaria, depending on the scenario, mobile or permanent electric fences, mobile barns and/or the acquisition and upkeep of livestokc protection dogs are currently subsidised. The herding of flocks as well as the maintenance of fences are not. The latter point was heavily debated and criticised among the participants, as the maintenance of fences is very labour intensive and livestock farms are already at the limits of their workload capacity.
An overview of exactly what is subsidied and how can be found here.
Depredation found – now what?
Stefanie Morbach, project member from BUND in Bavaria and Manfred Wölfl, from the Environmental Management Department of the State Environment Office, concerned themselves with what to do if a dead animal is found on the pasture and a depredation is suspected. Stefanie Morbach encouraged participants to find support in their circle of family and friends for showing a local expert and eventually a depredation expert the dead animal, if they are unable to do this themselves. Here it is very important however, to report the incident and also inform neighbouring livestock owners, so that they can take precautionary measures to protect their animals.
Manfred Wölfl also emphasised the importance of photographic documentation of the dead animal. Here the throat and nape areas are especially important. Potentially consumed areas are of secondary importance, as these could have also originated from scavengers such as foxes. What is very important is a timely report at the specialist department for large carnivores.
If after a thorough examination a depredation through a large carnivore is still suspected, a depredation expert will be tasked with assessment and sampling. Wölfl requested to treat these experts in a fair and friendly manner in spite of agitation, as they are carrying out their service on a voluntary basis for the community.