The predatory animal which has been killing sheep and deer in canton Graubünden over the last few weeks has been definitely identified as a wolf.This content was published on May 8, 2001 - 15:27
Scientists at the university of Lausanne said on Tuesday that an examination of DNA taken from the animal's excrement proved the predator was a wolf, and that it had come over the border from Italy.
Several sheep, deer and goats have been killed since early March in and around Bergell in the south of Graubünden. The confirmation that a wolf is responsible is a further indication that the species is returning to Switzerland's southern alpine regions.
In the last few years half a dozen wolves have been sighted in Switzerland, most of them in canton Valais. Their presence is a source of great concern to farmers, who fear for the safety of their livestock.
But wildlife experts are delighted that the wolf is returning; they say it proves that the alpine environment is once again able to support a wide variety of species.
The wolf is protected under Swiss law, and cannot be hunted and killed unless it is known to have destroyed significant numbers of animals.
Graubünden's game warden, George Brosi, said he expected difficulties with local farmers now that the presence of the wolf had been confirmed, but urged people to retain an open mind. "We should try to put aside our image of the 'big bad wolf' and find out what the real situation is," he said.
Brosi added that people were not in any danger from the wolf.
Local sheep farmers are, however, especially worried because they are currently in the process of turning their flocks out into summer pastures.
A hundred years ago, when the wolf was still common in Switzerland, farmers made greater use of shepherds and dogs to protect their livestock.
Game wardens and environmentalists believe these more labour intensive working methods will have to return, if the wolf continues its progress from Italy into Switzerland.
swissinfo with agencies
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