Pilot volunteering in Tyrol, Austria

As part of the LIFEstockProtect project, the European Wilderness Society team spent almost three weeks in the field, helping a local farmer in the Tyrol region in Austria. They were supporting him with looking after the sheep for the last weeks of the summer season. And at the end of September, they assisted in herding 200+ sheep from the ‘Alm’, the mountain pastures, down to the valley.

Helping local sheep farmer

The European Wilderness Society team arrived to Tösens (a small village in Tyrol, Austria, bordering Switzerland) on the 10th September and met with the local farmer Thomas Schranz. Together with other farm animals, he owns 200+ sheep, which graze on alpine pastures 2500m above sea level during summer time. Every day the volunteers hiked to the pastures to ensure the sheeps’ well-being and check if the electric fence was working. If they found any escaped sheep, they herded them back into the fenced area. In addition, they prepared the return of the sheep down to the valley called ‘Almabtrieb’. It marks the end of summer season and the beginning of winter season. Preparations included removal of unused fences and learning herding tricks for the big trip down the mountain.

During the volunteering stay in Tirol, the team slept in a specially built mobile shepherds´ hut. It is a small cabin suitable for 4 people. There were two rooms equipped with bunk beds and a living room with a dining table and a wood burner, all on less than 20 m². The team tested this cabin before the next season, when the Volunteer Workforce Network of LIFEstockProtect will start and volunteers will help Thomas with his sheep.

Wolves are returning to Austria

The Tyrol region is characterized by steep mountains with alpine pastures, which local farmers are using for livestock farming – sheep, goats and cows. Recently, Tyrol confirmed the presence of eight different wolves. Therefore, it is extremely important for local farmers to use effective protection measures to avoid depredation of wolves. These include electric fencing, livestock guarding dogs, and the permanent presence of shepherds.

As the newly approved project LIFEstockProtect is focusing on livestock protection and farmer coexistence with the natural wildlife, we are keen to gain hands-on experience on this topic. Every day, the team in Tösens learned about the work and needs of sheep farmers. They also had conversations with other stakeholders like local farmers, business men, and tourism representatives. They listened to their problems and fears and answered questions about the project. In addition, they learned about good practice examples of the tools that help protect sheep. Most importantly, they supported a nature-oriented local farmer with long needed manpower. It was a great example for other farmers that volunteers can greatly help farmers and that shepherd presence in the pasture is an effective livestock protection measure. This was also the feedback the European Wilderness Society team received from long-established farmers and shepherds, who were impressed by the usefulness of the additional manpower.

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