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New law puts wolf in the firing line

Switzerland's wolves had better be good at counting sheep

(Keystone)

The government has introduced a new law making it easier to kill wolves that prey on livestock, even though the endangered animal is a protected species.

The legislation is a compromise demanded by parliament to take into account the concerns of sheep farmers.

Announcing details on Friday, the Swiss environment agency said the law also gives the cantons more competence to act alone.

There has been a small wolf population in Switzerland since 1995, but sheep farmers have not welcomed the predator’s reappearance.

Wolves have killed dozens of sheep since they crossed over into the Swiss Alps from Italy.

Regulations were introduced in 2001 permitting the shooting of any wolf believed to have killed at least 50 sheep over a four-month period, or 25 in a single month.

The minimum has now been lowered to 35 sheep over a four-month time frame, but the cantons will be allowed to lower the number to 15 within a year if wolf attacks continue.

Compensation

The government has also agreed to compensate sheep farmers for lost livestock, footing 80 per cent of the bill, with the rest coming from the cantons.

It will also continue to subsidise a pilot project, which employs shepherds and sheepdogs to look after herds grazing in areas where wolves have been spotted.

Two years ago, parliament agreed to the compromise solution after narrowly rejecting a bill calling for the wolf to be removed from the list of protected species.

Environmentalists argued that such a move would have been tantamount to the “extermination of the wolf with the blessing of the authorities”.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

The wolf became extinct in Switzerland 100 years ago.
It reappeared in 1995.
There are believed to be at least seven wolves living in the wild in Switzerland.

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