FARMERS have demanded more powers to kill wolves after a teenager was surrounded by a wolf pack while checking his father’s animals – and only managed to scare them off by firing his rifle.
Romain Ferrand, 16, and his elder brother Benjamin had left the farmhouse above Seyne-les-Alpes in Alpes-de-Haute-Provence after hearing noises from their cattle and the farm dogs.
He told Dauphiné Libéré they went into a field about 50m from the house at Saint-Antoine and saw “eyes shining back at us from our lamps. They were about 80m away.”
His elder brother went to get a tractor to use the headlights and gave Romain the rifle.
He said he saw the silhouettes start to move at speed towards him but they ignored the herd of cows that had circled round the calves.
Suddenly he had wolves in front of him and then all around him and he told La Provence: “I was their target. They were no more than a dozen metres away. In my head I thought they were going to attack me.”
Romain told the paper that he fired his rifle in the air as he did not want to hit the cows – and the wolves ran off. There were about 15 of them, nine older wolves and six cubs.
His father Jean-Luc Ferrand said wolves had been seen several times near the farm and in the hamlet. He added that the wolf “is not scared of people any more”.
This is the first report of wolves approaching humans and local MP Christophe Castaner has asked the prefect to give farmers permission to shoot wolves “to stop this pack from coming near houses and scaring the population”.
However, Jean-François Darmstaedter of wolf defence group Ferus, told Le Monde the story did not ring true. “There are several flaws: wolf packs rarely consist of more than six or seven wolves and there are no cubs as this is when females give birth.”
Wolves kill thousands of animals a year in the south-east of France and there are more than 300 in the wild, with attacks in 2015 as far north as Meuse and Moselle and as far west as Aude, Aveyron and Cantal.
Last year 2,800 sheep were killed in Alpes-Maritimes, the department most affected by wolves. There were 101 attacks there in the first three months of 2015, with 464 animals killed.
At the weekend farmers from Orcières dumped two sheep carcasses on a roundabout in Gap, Hautes-Alpes, with a sign “Merci le loup”.
Just outside Nice, Alpes-Maritimes, three sheep were killed last week at Levens on the farm of cheese-maker Hélène Kaszowski at Bergerie Porte Rouge.