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Wolves may be shot in the future also preventively

  • By The Swiss Times
  • 2 November 2023

In the future, wolves may also be shot before they have caused damage. Preventive shooting will be permitted as early as December – by cantonal gamekeepers and with the approval of the federal government.

Wolves may be shot in the future also preventively
 (KEYSTONE/Dominic Favre)

This was decided by the Federal Council on Wednesday. It has approved an amendment to the hunting ordinance, as he announced. Now the cantons may shoot wolves preventively to prevent possible damage – and not only after damage has occurred.

The previous concept has not been able to contain the rapid spread of the wolf, Reinhard Schnidrig told the media in Bern on Wednesday. Schnidrig is head of the Wildlife Section at the Federal Office for the Environment (Bafu).

According to the federal government, there are currently 32 wolf packs with a total of around 300 wolves on the move in Switzerland. In 2020, there had still been eleven packs with a good 100 wolves. As a result, the number of livestock killed has also increased: from 446 in 2019 to 1480 last year. Especially for the alpine economy with sheep and goats, this is a problem. But the wolves also tear calves, alpacas and horses.

Wolf remains protected

“The wolf remains a protected species even with the revised hunting law,” said Federal Councilor Albert Rösti. Only in justified cases are the cantons allowed to remove entire packs. This means that the minimum number of wolf packs in a region must be exceeded. In Switzerland, five regions with certain minimum numbers of packs are defined according to the hunting ordinance.

Furthermore, only cantonal gamekeepers and specially trained experts in the cantons are allowed to shoot wolves – after a permit from the Bafu. “Nobody, no federal council, and I certainly don’t want to simply shoot wolves,” Rösti said. One does not have something against wolves in general – only if they pose a danger.

Wolves should become more timid

The hope is based not least on the fact that the wolves will become more shy as a result of stricter regulation and thus avoid livestock herds and human settlement areas. This should reduce the need to remove entire packs.

Switzerland’s current hunting law dates back to 1986, when there were no wolves living in the country, and they did not return until 1995. Finally, in 2012, the first pack formed and wolves became settled in Switzerland again. Due to increasing livestock depredations, the parliament revised the law in 2019, and in a referendum, the electorate rejected the hunting law in September 2020. Finally, the parliament revised the law again in December 2022.

Federal Council presses the pace

The Federal Council is pushing the pace with its action decided on Wednesday. This is urgently necessary because the wolf population is growing exponentially, said Environment Minister Rösti. The Federal Council has therefore already put the first part of the hunting law into force for a limited period as of December 1 and at the same time amended the hunting ordinance. This will allow the cantons to shoot wolves preventively as early as December and January.

The government will send the adopted provisions, together with the rest of the implementation of the new hunting law, for consultation in spring 2024. The entire package is then scheduled to definitively enter into force on February 1, 2025.

“Requests for whole pack removals”.

The canton of Graubünden, where more than 100 wolves live, reacted immediately to the decision. The canton has always been committed to the proactive regulation of wolves,” said Government Councillor Carmelia Maissen (center) to the media in Chur. The goal of the canton is now to stabilize the wolf population in the first regulation round and to intervene where the greatest conflicts exist.

The Office of Hunting and Fishing is now examining which packs meet the criteria of the federal government for a shooting application at the Federal Office for the Environment, explained Arno Puorger, responsible for large carnivores at the office. Which packs one wants to regulate how strongly is therefore still unclear. According to Puorger, however, it is already clear: “We will submit applications for entire pack removals.”

“Against all logic”

The Federal Council is acting against all logic with the new ordinance, wrote the environmental organizations Pro Natura, Gruppe Wolf Schweiz, BirdLife Schweiz and WWF in a statement. The new hunting ordinance shows a lack of understanding for the protection of species and the interaction between alpine farming, wildlife and forest.

The cantons must now act – as practiced so far – on the basis of expertise, balance and proportionality, the four organizations demand. A proportionate approach to the “wolf presence” is strenuous and challenging, but feasible.

©Keystone/SDA

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