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Swiss authorities present measures to protect lynx population

The Swiss authorities on Friday announced plans aimed at protecting the country’s lynx population and its habitat. But one lynx suspected of having killed 12 sheep will be shot, the federal environmental agency said.

This content was published on June 25, 1999 - 18:07

The Swiss authorities on Friday announced plans aimed at protecting the country’s lynx population and its habitat. But one lynx suspected of having killed 12 sheep will be shot, the federal environmental agency said.

The lynx was reintroduced into central Switzerland in the 1970s and since then it has thrived and migrated as far south as the maritime alps in France. The wildcat population in Switzerland itself is estimated at around 150 animals, with most of them living in northwestern parts of the country.

In a recent poll, 74 percent of the Swiss said they approved of the reintroduction of the lynx, which had become extinct in Switzerland at the end of the last century.

The high percentage figure was largely due to the support by urban dwellers because farmers and, above all hunters, had difficulty in accepting the reintroduction of the lynx.

Most hunting associations now grudgingly agree though that the lynx is an ecological predator which keeps nature in balance.

This argument, however, is still not wearing in cantons Berne and Fribourg where farmers have been losing sheep to the lynx. Those farmers have voiced their anger at the wildcat, even though they received compensation for any sheep killed by the predator.

The federal authorities on Friday gave the green light for hunters in Canton Berne to shoot a lynx, which had apparently specialised in sheep and killed a dozen of them in less than a year.

At the same time, however, the federal environmental agency said sheep farmers were also to blame for letting flocks wander unsupervised over mountains and in forests.

The agriculture office is now being asked to curtail subsidies to sheep farmers who don't use sheepdogs or let their flocks graze in the wrong place. Investigations are also underway into an epidemic of blindness among mountain deer – a disease thought to have been introduced by sheep.

Because of natural barriers such as rivers, lakes and motorways, no lynx have migrated to eastern Switzerland, the federal authorities said.

The government is now asking cantons to adopt those lynxes which will be captured in Canton Berne. The animals will be transferred to new habitats, as part of a strategy aimed at easing political pressure from hunters and farmers in north-western Switzerland.

The environmental agency also hopes that this relocation will give the lynx a better chance of survival.

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