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 Monday, 23 December, 2002, 11:19 GMT
French farmer in wolf-killing row
Sheep farmers take to the streets of Aix-en-Provence with their flocks
Sheep are expected to flock to the court hearing

A French sheep farmer has become the first person in France to be placed under formal investigation for killing a wolf.

Thirty-five-year-old Herve Bernaudon, a sheep farmer from the Hautes-Alpes region, faces six months in prison if he is found guilty of killing a protected species.

It took French police two years to track down the alleged wolf killer.

The investigation began in the autumn of 2000 when a man out walking in the Alps discovered the body of a wolf caught in a man-made trap.

A French environmental group immediately ordered an enquiry into the death of an animal which is protected under the Bern convention.

The trail eventually led to Mr Bernaudon, who confessed to setting the trap.

He is being investigated for destroying a protected species and could face six months in prison and a 9,000-euro fine.

International protection

The sheep farmer told police that, in the months leading up to the incident, 53 of his sheep had been killed by wolves and he was doing nothing more than protecting his flock.

This could become a cause celebre amongst the French sheep farming community, angered by the return of wolves to France a decade ago under the protection of international law.

Dozens of shepherds and hundreds of sheep are expected to flock to the court house in the town of Gap when Herve Bernaudon's trial begins in the New Year.

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  The BBC's James Coomarasamy
"Being investigated for destroying a protected species"
See also:

02 Apr 00 | Europe
11 Nov 99 | Science/Nature
24 Feb 00 | Europe
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