The Big Bad Wolf stock figure of so many children’s fairy tales, has surfaced again.
This time it’s in France, where there has been an outcry from animal rights groups since wolf hunts have resumed due to increased attacks by the animals after their “European comeback.”
Wolves were originally hunted to extinction by farmers in France back in the 1930s, but in 1992 a mating pair crossed the border from Italy. It is now estimated that there are around 300 individuals in 25 packs across France.
For many people, this is good news, but the Daily Telegraph reports that hunters, “wolf lieutenants,” and local farmers have grouped together to carry out a cull on the animals after sheep farmers complained of incessant attacks on their flocks.
This is in spite of the fact that the wolf is a protected species under the Berne convention and European law, meaning that it can no longer be hunted or poisoned.
So how can these hunts be legal?
It turns out that there are exceptions to this rule.
Culls can take place when all other attempts at protecting local livestock have failed. Under a government wolf plan, some 24 individuals can be “removed” in this way per year.
As it happens, the attacks have been happening just 25 miles inland from the top tourist spot of Nice on the French Riviera, and just 15 miles from Grasse, known as France’s perfume capital, which might explain the push for a cull. The hills in this region of the Var, called Caussols, have lost around 100 sheep to the grey wolf.
Conservation groups are understandably furious at the decision to re-intoduce wolf-hunting.
“To return to wolf hunts as if we were in the Middle Ages is scandalous. That the local authorities are organising them is even worse,” said Jean-François Darmstaedter, president of Ferus, who threatened to challenge their legality in the European courts.
“We call them ‘political killings’ as their only aim is to allow farmers to let off steam but they will solve nothing. Blindly shooting wolves will have no effect other than to exacerbate the problem. If you kill the alpha male, you can split up a pack, which will cause far more damage.”
And in fact, public opinion today is very much on the wolf’s side. A recent poll, commissioned by a pro-wolf group, found that 80 percent of French people wanted wolves to be protected from farmers, rather than sheep from wolves.
Neverthless, the wolf is once again under attack.
Of course, the track record in the U.S. is equally awful, especially in the state of Idaho, where state lawmakers just approved a bill that sets aside $400,000 to exterminate 500 wolves. Adding insult to injury, the bill takes management away from the state wildlife agency and places it in the hands of a “wolf depredation control board” that will consist solely of members appointed and overseen by Governor Butch Otter. This is the man who in 2007 said he wanted to be the first to kill an Idaho wolf after federal protections were taken away.
This is exactly the kind of ugly attitude that animal activists feared when Congress in 2011 stripped Endangered Species Act protections from wolves in the northern Rockies, where some 1,600 wolves have been killed since protections were lifted.
So what happened? The United States worked for 40 years to return wolves to the American landscape after they had been driven to the brink of extinction in the lower 48 states.
The Endangered Species Act allowed wolves to begin recovery, at least in a few places like the northern Rocky Mountains and Great Lakes states. After reintroductions in Yellowstone National Park and parts of Idaho, wolves came back.
Now this has all changed, as politicians in Congress have stripped federal protections from wolves and passed those protections over to the states.
Some states in the U.S. are pursuing wolves in much the same way that the French government in France is pursuing wolves in the oh-so-chic area near the French Riviera.
France and the U.S. have much in common after all, and that’s definitely not good news for wolves.
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