Farmers get more protection against wolf attacks


Grants for fences complement compensation scheme for farmers whose sheep are killed by wolves

Wolf alarms

Farmers whose livestock is threatened by wolves will receive government aid to improve their fences. The scheme, announced this week by environment and agriculture minister Koen Van den Heuvel, will meet 80% of the costs of ‘wolf-proofing’ existing fences in areas where wolves are known to be active.

The government is broadly positive about the reappearance of wolves in the Flemish countryside. It sees benefits for the environment and tourism, and has emphasised the lack of danger to the public. In the past 100 years, it notes, no human has suffered a wolf attack in Belgium or in neighbouring countries.

But the two wolves currently present in Belgium have been attacking sheep, even though farm animals would not normally be part of their diet. Farmers already get compensation for any losses, and now will receive support to improve their fences.

“We hope to limit the damage on the one hand, while on the other persuading the wolves back towards their natural behaviour, ensuring that they no longer hunt sheep,” Van den Heuvel said.

High voltage

This wolf-proofing involves electrifying fences in such a way that the wolves are dissuaded from climbing over or digging underneath the wire. The scheme will operate from the beginning of April, and will also compensate farmers for previous fence improvements.

The grants will only be available in a dozen municipalities in the east of Flanders, which scientists at the Research Institute for Nature and Forest think are risk areas for wolf attacks. Meanwhile, rescue kits are available from the Agency for Nature and Forest for situations that require rapid support, wherever they occur in the country.

Van den Heuvel also said that a pilot project is being developed to test wolf-repelling collars for sheep. These monitor the animal’s heartbeat, and if it increases then the collar will emit a high-pitched sound designed to drive the wolf away.

Photo: A Eurasian wolf, such as the kind now loping about Flanders
©Creative Nature/Getty Images