The presence of wolves in the department of Lot in south-west France has been confirmed during a meeting at the prefecture yesterday (June 22).
Since May 31, there have been nine reports of attacks on roaming flocks of sheep in six different communes, with 22 being killed and 20 injured, according to the Direction départementale des territoires and the Office français de la biodiversité.
Seven of these attacks have now been attributed to wolves.
The confirmation of the animals’ presence has triggered the introduction of several different conservation measures in the department.
These are outlined under the Plan national d’actions loup et activités d’élevage, and include:
- Two yearly departmental committee meetings to discuss wolf issues
- Preventing situations which could negatively affect farmers and shepherds, and supporting those affected by wolf attacks
- Supporting education schemes for wolf-hunting
Wolves are a protected species on a national and international level and so the measures must safeguard both the wolves and farmers’ flocks.
Since wolves were first spotted in Lot, wolf-hunters have been charged with surveying the area and scaring the animals off using non-lethal shots, in order to stop them from preying on livestock.
These shots can be fired day and night until July 8, but only by specially appointed wolf-hunters.
Since this strategy began, wolf attacks have become less frequent.
Where else can wolves be found in France?
Wolves were present across France two centuries ago, but gradually disappeared in the 1930s.
In 1992, a pair of wolves were found to have crossed over from Italy into the Mercantour National Park in Alpes-de-Haute-Provence and Alpes-Maritimes, and their French population has been growing slowly ever since.
The ecological transition ministry stated that in 2014-15, wolves were living permanently in 42 different areas.
Today, most French wolves are found in the southern Alps, but also in the Prealps, the backcountry of Provence, the Massif Central, the Pyrenees and the Vosges.
In 2021, it was estimated that wolves had a permanent presence in 145 areas of France. The Office français de la biodiversité reports that there are around 620 of them in the country.
Earlier this year, a camera trap captured footage of a wolf wandering through a forest in Finistère (Brittany), in what was the first such sighting since 1913.
In 2021 one was also spotted in Vienne, the first in a century.
Wolves normally live in packs of four to six: with a reproducing pair and their descendants.
The type of wolf found in France is the Eurasian or common grey wolf. They are generally 110-148cm in length and males weigh between 25 and 35kg, with short, coarse, tawny fur and a white throat.