Wolves in France—The Hunt Is On

A wolf (canis lupus)

The wolf risks extermination in France (Image via Wikipedia).

It seems we are on the verge of declaring a new war against the wolf in France. If so, we could exterminate them in the region once and for all. Antoine Agasse writes on July 28, 2011, on physorg.com, the article “Ravenous  wolves  colonise France,  terrorise  shepherds.”

He writes, “Regional authorities estimate the French wolf population at between 170 and 200 this year, up from 140 to 170 last year. The government says wolves killed 1,329 animals, mostly sheep, in France this year up to July 22.” (203 days)

This means the wolves killed almost exactly one sheep per wolf a month (if all 1329 were sheep). Estimating the average weight of a sheep at 150 pounds (68 Kg), each wolf should be eating about 4.9 pounds (2.23 Kg) per day.

Gray wolves, Canis lupus lupus, can survive on about 2.5 pounds (1.1 Kg) of food per wolf per day, but they need about 7 pounds (3,2 Kg) per wolf per day to reproduce successfully. Adult wolves can survive for days and even weeks without food if they have to.

This implies that, either the French wolves are not (cannot) be ravenous as the article claims (“Ravenous  wolves  colonise  France,  terrorise  shepherds”), each wolf consuming 4.9 pounds (2.23 Kg) sheep meat per day (plus high probably also supplementing their sheep diet with other food sources,) or the estimated number of wolves and killed sheep is wrong.

“One such pack of fearless wolves swooped on a flock in broad daylight under the noses of two shepherds and five sheep dogs (…)”

Wolves don’t do that unless they are sick, e.g. rabid, which has not been reported. My guess is that either (1) they didn’t, or (2) they were not wolves, but maybe hybrids or even feral or stray dogs (as earlier confirmed on other locations. e.g. on the Abruzzi mountains in Italy).

“Police in the Alps told AFP they had authorised one such hit last weekend after a wolf devoured 10 sheep and sent a further 62 in panic plunging to their deaths in a ravine. Thirty went missing in the overnight attack.”

10 sheep equals about 1500 pounds (680 Kg) of meat. The most a large gray wolf can eat at one time is about 22.5  pounds (10.2 Kg). An animal that devours 10 sheep and is still hungry to send 62 away in panic (plus 30 missing) is not a wolf, but maybe a fiction-wolf!

“The state has already paid out 364,000 euros (530,000 dollars) to farmers and shepherds such as Vignon this year to compensate them for their mauled sheep.”

364,000 EUR for 1329 sheep gives a price of 273.90 EUR per sheep (if all the 1326 animals killed by wolves were sheep). Not a bad price at all and better than to sell sheep on the market where a good purebred will fetch no more than 200 EUR.

“The head of the regional council, Jean-Louis Bianco, insisted however: “The wolf is no longer an endangered species.”

The wolves were extinct in France until recently. 200 wolves in France with an annual growth rate of 30 (15%) is no guaranty that they won’t be extinct soon again. This population growth has had a narrow genetic base, similar to the Scandinavian wolves, which  are more closely related to one another than full siblings. In Sweden the wolf population has grown in the last five years at a rate of about 19% and the Swedish government wants to keep them under 210 individuals.

He continues, “The shepherds and their flocks are the endangered species.”

Maybe by the EU subsidies, certainly not by the wolf!

Keep smiling and howling.

R-

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11 comments on “Wolves in France—The Hunt Is On

  1. I like the way you put things in its right perspective, Roger. Thanks for standing up for the wolves. They have to be here on earth, so we can learn from them.
    Hanne Skafte-Christiansen, Denmark

  2. Thanks, Hanne. I believe we can learn something from everything. The catch is, as I write in “Hello World!”, that mostly we see what we are thinking and feeling, seldom what we are looking at.

  3. Great post and further comments!

    “mostly we see what we are thinking and feeling, seldom what we are looking at”……..aboslutely on the mark! Very deep implications for everything we do, even in Science. It is very easy to fall prey of our own hypothesis and as Rosenthal said…we can find justification for whatever we want to justify!

    Fearing ourselves makes us fear most things and many times life itself. Our fear for animals and ourselves many times is due to a lack of understanding of the animal`s priorities. Wolves have canines, hunt in packs etc…, for the horse our fear has kept them in darkness far too long. Too long have we attempted to control and dominate horses instead of attemting to understand their priorities and adjust our ways, this may also be due to fear, insecurity etc…

    Gracias Roger, you are an inspiration!

    Victor

  4. I love this : ” …moslty we see what we are thinking and feeling, seldom what we are looking at.” It is so true! We project with all our might …onto others what we as a species feel and think…feel first think after… Sadly we are also “sheepish” in what we follow, we like to believe certain things because it helps our conscience feel right. We like to believe in the big bad wolf (the wolves that eat tons of sheep meat) because it then makes it ok for us to kill the big bad wolf…For me the wolf is my brother, we walked together for such a long time and dogs are witnesses to that. When will we start to see the world as it is and most importantly our actions as they are…reactions totally inappropriate to reality.
    Marie-France

  5. Yes, we see, what we want to see…
    But, I don´t think, we fear ourselves. We fear the unknown. And because we have forgotten how to live our lifes in pact with nature, we are now in deep trouble. Nature has become an unknown factor.
    The wolf is just one of the objects of fear, due to our lack of respect and neglect of the beautiful life on earth.
    Hanne Skafte-Christiansen, Denmark

  6. Pingback: Planet Earth has no Immune Response to Viral Attack « Roger Abrantes

  7. Fear is exaclty it. We (humans) are afraid to see what we truly are. Us Americans especially. We want the affordable couch, but we don’t want to see the pictures of the people making the couch or how they are treated. We say we are “free” and freedom comes at the cost of blood. I would guess that only 20% of americans step up to serve in the military that goes out to collect that blood. The other 80% sits back and hides from it. Then does not want to talk about it and alienizes it. And what a crappy way to “earn” freedom. Why cant it be that we create freedom through mutual collaboration and coexistance, rather than confrontaional erradication? I get so tired of humans. Argh… Sorry for the rant.

  8. Dear Roger,

    one explanation for the numbers mentioned in the first part of your article is that wolf-killed sheep are often not fully eaten by the wolves. Because the behavior of domestic sheep is so different from that of natural wild prey, and extremely poorly adapted to the presence of predators, wolf attacks often result in more sheep getting killed or wounded than the wolves can actually eat. Also, they tend to flee in a very confused way and do get hurt by falling over boulders or cliffs.
    The wolf-livestock conflict is a particularly complicated issue because it is related to many aspects within the fields of biology, ecology, social sciences, economy, etc. Moreover it very often involves emotional reactions and strongly polarized points of view, which make it very difficult to objectively look at the problem.
    Hopefully we can find a way for large carnivores to coexist with people even when competing for resources, as is almost always the case in Europe.
    I thought I’d add another perspective as a wolf biologist from France – hope you don’t mind 🙂

    Best regards, Nathalie

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