“We are on a colonization front that is in constant motion”

20 wolf attacks have taken place since early August in the Val de Mouthe (Doubs). 15 animals were killed. The rabies does not go away among breeders who have lost heifers. For the French Office of Biodiversity (OFB), the presence and number of wolves are difficult to assess.

5 new attacks took place in the communes of Rochejean, Chapelle d’Huin, Chaux-Neuve and Chapelle-des-Bois between 8 and 11 October. 5 animals died. Lionel Bourgeois, a farmer in Chapelle-des-Bois, had to sacrifice one of his heifers. He’s angry. “This is the fourth animal killed in the city in a month and a half. We never saw it. We are very scared for the next few years, given the magnitude it takes.” he said. For him, there are too many wolves in the area, there needs to be serious regulation of the species to preserve the herds.

For the French Office of Biodiversity, this scenario defended by farmers is not sustainable. First, because the overpopulation of wolves, “That is normally not possible. They adapt to the number of wild prey.” explains Christophe Guinchard, head of the OFB’s Doubs department, interviewed by our journalists Noémie Gobron and Guillaume Soudat. In Doubs, an additional parameter comes into play, livestock predation. “What does this new anomalous predation add to the presence of wolves?” : to this question, impossible to answer at the moment. According to the OFB, camera traps and the search for traces of winter will allow in a few months to have an idea of ​​the population in the Jura massif and particularly in the Haut-Doubs where attacks are increasing.

“We are on a wolf colonization front in Arco do Jura and things are moving. What we are sure of is that we have a pack that can be found almost exclusively in Marchairuz (Canton of Vaud). On the French side, we have a squad qualified as Risoux’s squad. And there are also some emissaries northeast of Val de Mouthe, in the Mont d’Or massif, and even beyond, as two individuals have recently been identified in the areas of Jougne, Hôpitaux-Vieux and Fourgs.” explains the expert. “In these two packages, what we are sure of is that they reproduced. 7 puppies from the Swiss side, 3 puppies from the Risoux pack side. This is changing and we also have scattered wolves coming to shuffle the cards.” specifies Christophe Guinchard. For the OFB, this colonization front is difficult to apprehend, to quantify. To make assumptions about dispersal, colonization, it’s still too early in summary.

The Doubs OFB makes a hypothesis that remains a hypothesis. The Marchairuz pack started attacking cattle two years ago. “Perhaps the family ties maintained between packs at the same time led to behavior that may have been deviant” specifies Christophe Guinchard. A wolf normally feeds on game and deer.

On Haut-Doubs farms that lost animals, state services authorized defensive shooting by hunters and/or wolf hunters. On September 20, a wolf was killed in the town of Longevilles-Mont-d’Or. Associations such as Ferus or the Pôle Grand Prédateur have denounced the death of this wolf, a protected species that, according to them, does not solve the problem in any way. to Fero, “the various studies (including in France) have not shown the effectiveness of wolf hunting in damage to livestock… .” Protecting livestock, three words many farmers find hard to imagine. “It’s not viable with the way we farm here. In Chapelle-des-Bois there are 8 herds, two patous would be needed at a time. It’s unfeasible. It’s either agriculture or the wolf.” reacted Lionel Bourgeois after the attack on his flock on the night of October 10-11.

Read ► October 3, the mayor of Doubs gathered all the interlocutors of the wolf file

The wolf has always been present in the French countryside. But it has been hunted by man for centuries. In 1937, it was considered that there were no more wolves in France. The animal returned on its own through the alpine arch.

In France, at the end of winter 2021-2022, the population of wolves in France is estimated at 921 individuals, according to data from the OFB, French Office of Biodiversity. For 2020-2021, the gray wolf population was 783 wolves.

This year 2022, given the growing presence of wolves, the maximum number of wolves that can be killed in France will be 174 individuals, against 118 initially predicted.

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