Livestock in wolf country

schafe klAs large predators wolves are specialised in hunting large wild ungulates . They feed primarily on roe deer, red deer and wild boar in Central Europe. Elk and reindeer are often the wolves' primary prey in Scandinavia. Livestock and waste, however, may account for an essential share of the wolves' diet in areas where there are no wild ungulates such as in some regions of Spain and Portugal. But attacks on livestock may also occur in areas with a high game population. This means that wolves do not only kill and consume domesticated animals if they do not find sufficient wild prey. They simply hunt animals which they can defeat easily. They do not differentiate between animals that are "right" or "wrong" prey from a human perspective. Unprotected livestock is particularly easy prey.

Especially medium-sized livestock such as sheep and goats as well as wild ungulates kept in enclosures such as fallow deer are affected in Saxony and at an international level too. Sheep and goats are particularly easy prey as they are small in size, have almost no effective defence or escape behaviour and are extensively kept in free range conditions. Cattle and horses are able to defend themselves quite well by their very nature. Furthermore, they often have a strongly developed herd behaviour. This is the reason why they are less prone to attacks. If at all, wolves thus usually kill only young cattle or horses or animals that are kept individually.

Attacks on New World camelids (e.g. alpacas) are rather rare too. No such case had been reported in Germany up until 2016. These animals did not use to live in the wolves' natural distribution area but they are nowadays being kept ever more often. The animals are medium-sized and not considered capable of defending themselves very well so that they are assumed to be at risk. It remains to be seen whether the wolves take them as prey over time.

Attacks on livestock occur especially frequently in areas where wolves re-establish themselves because the animal keepers are usually not sufficiently prepared to cope with this new situation.
To prevent livestock losses due to wolf attacks or to keep these down to a minimum, large-scale herd protection including professionally installed fencing is very important. The more often a wolf is successful in hunting poorly protected sheep the more intensively this wolf will try to reach protected sheep too. In addition, wolves are quick to recognise weaknesses in protective measures. There is no ultimate protective measure to keep wolves away and/or to minimize livestock damage. Instead individual herd protection possibilities should be chosen depending on the respective local animal keeping conditions. Even though herd protection measures will not provide 100 percent protection, they will reduce damage effectively. Electric fences (if necessary in conjunction with livestock guardian dogs) and/or housing the livestock in stables or sheds overnight offer the best protection.

In general, the forms of sheep husbandry used in Saxony ensure comparatively good conditions of coexistence with wolves as most of the sheep graze on pastures that are enclosed by electric net fencing. Some people who keep animals as a side job protect their sheep behind high wire mesh fences and/or keep them in stables overnight which ensures a good level of security. Some full-time shepherds use livestock guardian dogs to protect their large herds very effectively.

Please refer to the following pages for more information on:

- Protection measures to prevent damage

- Funding of prevention measures and financial compensation for damage in the Free State of Saxony

- Number of attacks on livestock in the Free State of Saxony (damage statistics)

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