Wolf: the canton of Valais asks for the support of the Confederation

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As in France, the presence of the wolf is a problem in the Swiss canton of Valais. The authorities of this Alpine canton are asking the Confederation for exceptional regulations and additional financial support for breeders whose herds are threatened and attacked.

 

As in France, in Switzerland the authorities keep precise accounts of the evolution of the lupine populations in the Confederation, which is generally very committed to the protection of the environment. The number of wolves present in the canton of Valais is increasing exponentially. Since the return of the canine to cantonal territory in
1995 (in France 1992), 114 wolves have been identified to date, compared to 39 5 years ago.

In order to meet the challenges posed by the significant development of the wolf population and the pressure exerted on mountain agriculture, the State of Valais is strengthening its support for breeders. It will allocate an additional 1 million Swiss francs to the protection of herds. The canton expects the Confederation to adapt the current legal framework no longer corresponds, according to him, to the exponential evolution of the wolf population. The Council of State has written a new letter to the Federal Council asking it to issue an ordinance of necessity to allow the canton to regulate the overpopulation of wolves for six months in coordination with the Federal Office for the Environment. The canton is asking for a simplification of administrative procedures as well as compensation for breeders for all animals not found following a proven wolf attack, deducting natural losses.

Greater regulation

Faced with the urgency of the situation, the canton must exceptionally obtain the possibility of regulating the overpopulation of wolves.
The presence of 4 packs is attested in the canton. These figures and several field observations allow
to currently estimate the presence of 50 to 70 individuals. Since 2018, the number of individuals on the cantonal territory has more than doubled. This rapid development and the implementation of protective measures have a direct impact on the number of predated livestock.

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In 2021, 336 animals were killed by wolves compared to 302 in 2020 and 205 in 2019. Since the start of 2022, 84 farm animals have already been killed. Faced with the rapid evolution of wolf populations, the State of Valais considered that the means available for the protection of the herds and the federal legislative framework were not sufficient. The Council of State wrote in 2021 to the Federal Council to request greater financial support for the protection of herds and a relaxation of the regulations which only rarely make it possible to resolve the problems encountered by breeders in a timely manner. It has been heard in the field of herd protection, since the Confederation has made available an additional 5.7 million francs for the 2022 summer season.
With regard to the regulation of the large predator, the canton expects greater leeway. Today, the canton can order the shooting of an isolated wolf if it kills 10 livestock in a protected or unprotectable situation. In the case of a pack, the canton may order control shooting if 10 livestock are killed in a protected or unprotectable situation after obtaining authorization from the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN).

The revision of the Federal Law on hunting must also for the canton be carried out as quickly as possible to allow preventive regulation of the wolf. To date, the Valais has more than 150 mountain pastures exploited in summer by sheep breeders. The maintenance of pastoralism is essential, in particular for the upkeep of the landscape, the preservation of native breeds and for the development of biodiversity. The State of Valais has defined the criteria which make it possible to determine whether an alpine pasture is considered by the canton to be protectable or not. The criteria for defining the measures are based on the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) and some have been adapted. These include herd size, accessibility, yield, guarding or the presence of guard dogs. An economic criterion has also been introduced. The aim of this policy is to achieve and maintain sustainable management of summer farms, mainly in terms of profitability and ecology.

In order to cope with the growing pressure of large predators on mountain agriculture, the Grand Council accepted additional funding of 1 million francs for the protection of herds. Of this amount, the Council of State has
decided to allocate 750,000 francs to the implementation of protective measures on mountain pastures, including those considered unprotectable. Herd protection measures eligible for cantonal contributions include
in particular the guarding of the pasture, the use of guard dogs, the installation of fences, the setting up of night parks or even exceptionally the use of donkeys. The remaining 150,000 francs will support projects in
link with the protection of herds, such as the breeding of guard dogs or the mobilization of civilians or volunteers. Finally, the remaining 100,000 francs will be used to cover human resources costs for the reinforcement
advice to farmers on the protection of herds.

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