THE WOLF - can herd protection work?

The wolf - can herd protection work?

In 1998, a pair of wolves was sighted again for the first time since the wolves were exterminated about 150 years ago. Two years later, this pair raised pups for the first time on the Oberlausitz military training area. The foundation stone for the return of wolves to Germany had been laid. In the monitoring year 2019/20, there were now already 128 packs, 35 wolf pairs and ten lone wolves living in Germany (source: Federal Agency for Nature Conservation).


Unfortunately, not everyone is very happy about this. One reason is that a few wolves have learned to snatch farm animals.


In 2018, the wolf demonstrably killed 2,067 grazing animals, few of which were protected under the herd protection measures recommended by the government. Nevertheless, 2,067 animals sound a lot at first, but converted to the number of wolves living in Germany, this makes up less than 1% of the wolves real food, which has also been confirmed by faecal samples (source: Nabu).


Nevertheless, lately I have been hearing again and again from people that the wolf means the end of grazing livestock. But is the wolf really to blame for this, or is there perhaps a completely different reason?


Wild European grey wolf in Germany.
Wild European grey wolf in Germany.
Livestock guardian dog in Abruzzo, Italy.
Livestock guardian dog in Abruzzo, Italy.
Herd protection warning banners in southern Switzerland.
Herd protection warning banners in southern Switzerland.
Livestock guardian dog watches over sheep and goats in Abruzzo.
Livestock guardian dog watches over sheep and goats in Abruzzo.
Livestock guardian dog in southern Switzerland that looks after goats.
Livestock guardian dog in southern Switzerland that looks after goats.
Goat behind an electric fence in southern Switzerland.
Goat behind an electric fence in southern Switzerland.
Livestock guardian dog in southern Switzerland that looks after goats.
Livestock guardian dog in southern Switzerland that looks after goats.
Livestock guardian dogs in southern Switzerland that looks after goats and sheep.
Electric fence in Saxony to prevent a wolf attack (size comparison - I am 1.90 metres tall).

If we look at the figures, the real reason is completely different: 
98% of the meat we consume in Germany comes from factory farming (source: GEO).
In Germany alone, we slaughter 763,000,000 farm animals (excluding fish) every year (source: Albert Schweitzer Foundation). Worldwide even 72,500,000,000 (fish excluded) (Source: Our World in Data). If we then look at the figures for how many wild animals we kill each year in hunting, the number 2,067 becomes very small. There are no less than 4,000,000 animals killed annually in Germany alone. (The exact figure for the 2018/19 hunting year is 4,003,851, source: German Hunting Association).


So it is not the wolf that has put an end to grazing livestock, but our insatiable consumption that has long since wiped out grazing livestock.
So if you're angry at the wolf that preys on the poor lambs, you'd better look at your own plate.




Livestock guardian dogs

Nevertheless, the question is of course: how can we protect our last remaining

grazing animals?


For this purpose, I travelled to Abruzzo, Italy, in the summer of 2020. There, the wolf has never been exterminated. So people know how to live together with the animals without any problems.


In Abruzzo, sheep, goats, cows and horses graze in the valleys and on the plateaus. Sometimes they travel with shepherds, but often alone, and even without fences.


So how can it be that the wolves do not cause any problems there?
Quite simply, the key word is livestock guardian dogs.

Livestock guardian dog watches over sheep and goats in Abruzzo.
Livestock guardian dog watches over sheep and goats in Abruzzo.
A flock of sheep in Abruzzo, Italy.
A flock of sheep in Abruzzo, Italy.
Livestock guardian dog with shepherd watches sheep and goats in Abruzzo.
Livestock guardian dogs watch over cows in Abruzzo, Italy.
Livestock guardian dogs watch over cows in Abruzzo, Italy.
Livestock guardian dog watches over sheep and goats in Abruzzo.
Livestock guardian dog watches over sheep and goats in Abruzzo.
Sheep and goats guarded by livestock guardian dogs in Abruzzo.
Livestock guardian dog watches over sheep and goats in Abruzzo.
Livestock guardian dog watches over sheep and goats in Abruzzo.
Livestock guardian dog looking after horse in Abruzzo, Italy.
Livestock guardian dog looking after horse in Abruzzo, Italy.
Livestock guardian dog watches over sheep in Abruzzo.
Livestock guardian dog watches over sheep in Abruzzo.
Livestock guardian dog watches over sheep and goats in Abruzzo.
Livestock guardian dog watches over sheep and goats in Abruzzo.
Livestock guardian dog watches over sheep and goats in Abruzzo.
Livestock guardian dog watches over sheep and goats in Abruzzo.
Livestock guardian dog watches over sheep and goats in Abruzzo.
Livestock guardian dog watches over sheep and goats in Abruzzo.
Livestock guardian dog watches over sheep and goats in Abruzzo.
Livestock guardian dog watches over sheep and goats in Abruzzo.
Livestock guardian dog watches over sheep and goats in Abruzzo.
Livestock guardian dog watches over sheep and goats in Abruzzo.
Livestock guardian dog watches over sheep and goats in Abruzzo.
Livestock guardian dog watches over sheep and goats in Abruzzo.
Livestock guardian dog watches over sheep and goats in Abruzzo.
Livestock guardian dog watches over sheep and goats in Abruzzo.
Livestock guardian dog watches over sheep and goats in Abruzzo.
Livestock guardian dog watches over sheep and goats in Abruzzo.
Livestock guardian dogs watches over sheep and goats in Abruzzo.
Livestock guardian dogs watches over sheep and goats in Abruzzo.
Livestock guardian dogs watch out for cows in Abruzzo.
Livestock guardian dogs watch out for cows in Abruzzo.
A night camp of cows protected by livestock guardian dogs in Abruzzo, Italy.
A night camp of cows protected by livestock guardian dogs in Abruzzo, Italy.
Shepherd with livestock guardian dogs, sheep and goats in Abruzzo.
Shepherd with livestock guardian dogs, sheep and goats in Abruzzo.
Shepherd with herding dog, sheep and goats in Abruzzo, Italy.
Shepherd with herding dog, sheep and goats in Abruzzo, Italy.
Shepherd with herding dog, sheep and goats in Abruzzo, Italy.
Shepherd with herding dog, sheep and goats in Abruzzo, Italy.
Livestock guardian dog watches over sheep and goats in Abruzzo.
Livestock guardian dog watches over sheep and goats in Abruzzo.
Livestock guardian dog watches over sheep in Abruzzo.
Livestock guardian dog watches over sheep in Abruzzo.
Shepherd with sheep in Abruzzo, Italy.
Shepherd with sheep in Abruzzo, Italy.


Livestock guardian dogs are dogs that are specially bred to protect their pack under all circumstances and from everyone. But who is their pack? It can be sheep, goats, cows and even horses. The only important thing is that they are born and raised in the pack.


Livestock guardian dog fends off a cow that accidentally ran into the flock of sheep.
Livestock guardian dog fends off a cow that accidentally ran into the flock of sheep.
Livestock guardian dog fends off a cow that accidentally ran into the flock of sheep.

In the Abruzzo region, I was able to observe how a guard dog confronted a cow that was about to accidentally run into the flock of sheep. 


It ran around the cow barking and then placed itself between the sheep and the cow to loudly persuade it to take a different path. 


Livestock guardian dogs are very impressive and self-confident. However, a livestock guardian dog is not allowed to bite. At least not until it is directly attacked.


Nevertheless, walkers should treat the animals with respect. It is best to walk a wide arc around a herd to prevent the guardian dogs from sounding the alarm.

It is also important to keep dogs on a leash and not to make jerky movements. It is also best not to jog or cycle past, but to walk past in a relaxed manner. In Germany, livestock guardian dogs must be fenced in with the sheep herd, for example. They are not allowed to cross the fence. In Abruzzo, the dogs are not fenced in and can move freely. This is much better regulated in Germany.


Now, however, livestock guardian dogs are quite expensive. A trained guard dog costs about 3,500 euros, a puppy about 1,000 euros. (Source: giessener-allgemeine). A livestock guardian dog costs about 200 Euros per month (2,500 Euros per year) to maintain (source: Nabu). Moreover, one livestock guardian dog is not enough. Depending on the size of the herd, several dogs are needed. This all sounds like a lot at first, but in the meantime the state of Brandenburg, for example, covers the purchase and even the monthly maintenance costs.



Of course, livestock guardian dogs are not the only means against wolves, but they are the most effective. Electric fences also help very well if they are the right height, i.e. at least 90 cm, more likely 120 cm. 


A statistic from the year 2020 from the state of Brandenburg shows that only very few livestock farmers who were affected by a wolf attack complied with the herd protection measures (source: Brandenburg State Office for the Environment).


Nevertheless, there are of course farmers in Germany who accept the wolves and implement the herd protection measures recommended by the government. Some of them already use guard dogs in an exemplary way and have good experiences with them. Anita Emmert, for example. You can watch a short report from the Bavarian Broadcasting Corporation HERE on YouTube.



Rethinking our diet

So before we start pointing the finger at the wolf, we should consider whether we are not to blame. Whether we shouldn't simply do a better job of protecting the herd and whether we shouldn't rethink our totally outdated diet. The fact is that our teeth and digestive system are made for plant food, unlike the wolf.


It has also been scientifically proven that consuming animal products significantly increases the risk of heart attacks, strokes, diabetes and even cancer (source: Süddeutsche Zeitung).

Even hunter-gatherers have fed on significantly more plant products than animal products, as new findings show.


The statement "but we have always done it this way", or "but you don't get full from vegetables" is therefore not true at all. The real reason why we feel fuller for longer when we eat meat is that our digestive system can process vegetable protein much better than animal protein. So we only feel fuller for longer because our body is struggling to process the meat.


If you want to learn more about plant-based diets and the animal suffering involved in livestock farming, I recommend two fantastic documentaries: 


Documentary on plant-based nutrition: The Game Changers

Documentary on animal suffering: Dominion



You want to do more for the wolf, but don't know how?


Then you can take to the streets with demonstrations, for example, to show politicians that you care about biodiversity and our ecosystems. Signing petitions can also be effective. You can also talk to your family and friends about it and raise awareness.
Unfortunately, there are countless abuses in our society that are often deliberately created by industry to influence our consumption. Therefore, it is important to raise awareness about these problems and to communicate them openly.


Another option is to volunteer with local environmental organisations and thus promote nature conservation in your area.


I hope I could help you with my tips and inspire you to change the world with small changes in your daily life. You can find another article of mine about the wolf in relation to the danger it poses, or doesn't pose, HERE.


You don't want to make these small changes in your daily life alone? Then share them with your family and friends.


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