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Thursday, 4 January, 2001, 15:18 GMT
Howls of protest as wolves roam again
Wolves
Wolves are breeding so successfully they face controls
Wolves have made such a successful return to the French Alps that they could now be culled.

Farmers say they are losing so many sheep to the wolf packs that they want permission to shoot them, a conference has heard.


The French public find it terribly attractive to have real wild creatures back on their territory

Professor Henry Buller
UK professor Henry Buller, who also works at Paris University, told the conference in France that many French people were delighted to have the wolves back - but farmers were less impressed.

The wolves - still a protected species - are believed to have re-established themselves in France after crossing the border from Italy, where they lived in sparsely-populated areas.

With the level of reported attacks continuing to rise, French officials are said to considering whether to grant permits to farmers who want to shoot the wolves.

Tourism

Up to 30 animals are believed to be in the packs, roaming the southern Alps in the Mercantour National Park. Up to 20 others may occasionally join them from across the Italian border, say experts.

Conservationists are delighted at their return, as are tourism officials who believe it will enhance the area's image.

But now, apparently going from strength to strength, the wolves are finding themselves in conflict with local farmers.

"The farmers are accusing the government of clandestinely reintroducing the wolves, but there is no evidence for that," said Professor Buller.

Compensation

"The French public find it terribly attractive to have real wild creatures back on their territory. The farmers want permits to shoot the wolves."

Professor Buller, of Cheltenham and Gloucester College Rural Studies Department, says a similar problem arose when brown bears were reintroduced in the Pyrenees.

"The lesson from France is that (reintroduction) only works if the local community is consulted and is on side."

Farmers are entitled to compensation for any animals they lose to the wolves.

The French Government has paid out about six million French Francs since the wolves were first spotted six years ago.

Some believe that the number of attacks is being exaggerated.

More than 5,000 cases of wolves killing sheep have been claimed by farmers - which would make each of the 30 wolves responsible for 175 attacks.

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See also:

09 May 00 | Sci/Tech
Tourists key to saving wolves
25 Apr 00 | Sci/Tech
Wolves find haven in Italy
17 Sep 99 | Sheffield 99
Call for return of Scottish wolves
24 Feb 00 | Europe
Bringing wolves back to Sweden
02 Apr 00 | Europe
French wolf worries
11 Nov 99 | Sci/Tech
Campaign for Europe's carnivores
17 Nov 00 | Americas
Grizzlies back to the wild
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