Volunteers sought to help farmers live safely with wolves


The Wolf Fencing Team will give advice and practical help to farmers who want to protect sheep and goats from possible wolf attacks

Natural predators

Good fences make good neighbours, especially when you live next door to wolves. With these predators returning to the Belgian countryside, a volunteer force is being set up to help farmers build effective barriers to prevent their stock from harm.

Wolf sightings in Belgium remain rare, but the evidence is building that at least two wolves have settled in Limburg and Liège province in Wallonia. While this is seen as a positive development for nature and tourism, farmers are not so happy. Several sheep have been attacked and killed.

A recent study cited by nature organisation Natuurpunt found that only 4% of the sheep and goat herds inspected in Flanders were protected in a way that would prevent a wolf attack. So, together with Natagora and WWF, it is setting up the Wolf Fencing Team Belgium.

The aim is to collect volunteers who can help farmers put up effective fences and other barriers. That help could be advice on how to best protect sheep and goats, lending a hand when it comes to building the fences, emergency kits issued by the Agency for Nature and Forests after an attack or more permanent protection.

Off the menu

While volunteers should be good with their hands, they are not expected to know about the specific fencing involved. Training will be given over the coming months and, if all goes to plan, they will be start helping farmers from May.

“We want to give the farmers the feeling that they are not alone,” Pepijn T’Hooft of WWF told De Standaard. It is also a matter of acting before the wolves get used to having farm animals on the menu.

 “Currently, sheep and goats make up only a small percentage of the wolf’s diet, but we already see them getting used to it,” T’Hooft added. “That’s why it is important to act decisively.”

The initiative is inspired by similar organisations in Germany and the Netherlands, where there is more experience of living with wolves. However, these countries also have public funds to help farmers meet the material costs of building fences, and this is something Natuurpunt would like to see from the Belgian authorities.

Photo: Whitney Lewis Photography/Getty Images