The recommended herd protection measures reduce damage effectively but will not ensure 100 percent protection as they are a compromise between effectiveness and additional financial expenditure. The herd protection measures aim to make it as difficult as possible for the wolf to get hold of livestock without burdening the animal keepers with disproportionately high costs for implementing these measures practically and financially. Compliance with the minimum protection standards is prerequisite for obtaining compensation should any damage occur in Saxony.
Electric fencing is a very helpful protection against wolf attacks because it leaves a vivid memory in the animals when coming into contact with this barrier. Both electric flexinet and tape fences can be used for this purpose. Electric fences must be at least 90 cm high to meet the minimum standards in Saxony. International standards even recommend a height of at least 110 cm. Animal keepers are thus generally recommended to buy net material of 106 to 110 cm in height when purchasing new fencing.
Tape fencing must consist of at least five electrified tapes to meet the minimum protection requirements. It is important for this type of fencing that the gap between the lowest tape and the ground as well as the gaps between the three lowest tapes do not exceed 20 cm. The gap may not be larger than 30 cm as of the fourth tape.
Permanently installed (non-electric) fencing
Unlike electric fences, permanently installed fences made of meshed wire, knotted wire or similar materials have no active deterrent effect but are a mere physical barrier. Thus these fences are not recommended as wolves can easily dig underneath them or climb/jump over them. If an animal keeper wants to keep using such fences, they must have a height of at least 120 cm to meet the minimum protection requirements. A height of at least 140 cm is recommended by international standards.
Wolves usually first try to slip through underneath a fence before jumping over it. The fencing should therefore be really stable at the bottom. Furthermore, it must be taut and may not have any gaps.
Preventing the wolves from digging underneath the fences
Non-electric permanently installed fences, particularly if used as game enclosures, should be equipped with special means to prevent wolves from digging their way underneath the fence. However, this is not considered a general prerequisite for obtaining compensation in case of damage. An approximately 100 cm wide strip of knotted wire netting, for example, can be laid flat on the ground outside the enclosure and fixed with wire to the existing fence and anchored to the ground.
Another possibility is to connect an electrified wire with at least 2,500 V to the fence with insulators around 20 cm above the ground. The vegetation along the fence has to be kept short in this case to prevent the current from being discharged.
If a new enclosure has to be built, this should be inserted into the ground to a depth of at least 50 cm.
Even though wolves are physically able to jump over relatively high fences, they do not do this very often. Should there be evidence that wolves jump over electric fences, the use of an additional fence tape (barrier tape) may become necessary in this region. The fence tape, which is not electrified itself, is fixed 20 to 30 cm above the fence and is intended as an optical barrier. Such barrier tape may prevent the wolves from jumping over fences. There were two occurrences of wolves jumping over fences repeatedly in Saxony. Barrier tape was able to prevent them from doing this again in both cases.
Fladry fencing may be used as an immediate remedy or as a short-term interim solution to provide protection against attacks of wolves on livestock. Fladry fencing uses flags or pieces of cloth which are attached to a cord at intervals of not more than 50 cm. This cord is then used to enclose an endangered herd. The fladry hanging down should touch the ground or not be more than 20 cm above the ground. Since the fladry waves and moves in the wind, they are an obstacle that the wolves cannot assess. Due to the wolves' ability to learn quickly, this protection measure should only be used for some days as otherwise they can get used to it and the fladry may lose its deterring effect.
Recommendations for keepers of cattle and horses
Adult cattle and horses are quite able to defend themselves by their very nature. They often exhibit a marked herd behaviour too. They are thus much less endangered and are usually only attacked by wolves in regions where sheep and wild ungulates are rare (e.g. in some regions in Spain and Portugal). Mostly it is then young animals or cattle and horses kept individually that are killed by wolves. Unlike for sheep and goats, there are no special protective measures prescribed for herds of cattle and horses in any of the Western and Central European countries due to the fact that wolf attacks on cattle and horses are rare.
However, it is recommended that calves, young cattle and foals should not be allowed to graze alone on a pasture but only together with adult animals. Furthermore, the enclosure should prevent the animals from leaving the paddock. This is also good advice merely for ensuring the animals' safety while they are grazing. (Electric fencing such as electric tape fencing is ideal for this purpose.)
If animal keepers nevertheless want to build a "wolf-proof" enclosure around their paddock, this should be an electric tape fence as described above.
Livestock guardian dogs (LGD)
The use of livestock guardian dogs is one of the oldest measures to protect herds against attacks. Unlike the often smaller, agile herding and sheep dogs that help shepherds control the sheep's movement, the large, protective livestock guardian dogs are only responsible for defending the herd against attackers.
Already thousands of years ago, people started to use dogs to protect livestock and ward off predators. This practice generated specialized dog breeds such as the Pyrenean Mountain Dog in France, the Komondor and Kuvasz in Hungary, the Polski Owczarek Podhalanski (Polish Tatra Mountain Sheepdog) in Poland or the Maremann-Abruzzese (Maremma) in Italy. In most of the countries where wolves have never been eradicated, the use of livestock guardian dogs is the preferred way of protecting livestock to this very day. This effective practice is also regaining popularity in Germany. Some German shepherds have started using livestock guardian dogs. Most of the dogs originate from proven working lines in Switzerland and France (mostly Pyrenean Mountain Dogs or Maremmas). Livestock guardian dogs are usually used on the inside of pastures enclosed by electric fencing. They thus act as an additional deterrent to wolves.
Livestock guardian dogs are already introduced to sheep as puppies and stay with the herd day and night. The dogs develop a close bond to the sheep that makes them ready to defend the animals against all potential attackers. In the event of trouble or a threat such as an approaching wolf, the dogs position themselves between the herd and the wolf and start barking. The mere presence of the large dog and its barking are generally enough to keep the wolf away. At least two dogs should be placed with a herd or even three or more depending on the herd's size so that they can also protect the sheep if several wolves attack and try to reach their prey from different sides.
It takes around 1.5 to 2 years before a livestock guardian dog works reliably. Before the dog is able to do its job, the shepherd has to invest a lot of time in its supervision, guidance and correction. Teaching a livestock guardian dog the skills and rules it needs to do its job requires a great deal of knowledge and experience because only an adult dog that works reliably can protect the livestock effectively. There is a risk that the dogs leave the herd alone if their bond to humans is too strong or their bond to sheep is too weak. Poorly socialised dogs may chase sheep and thus disturb the herd. Experienced livestock guardian dogs, however, provide good protection against wolf attacks.
The following hints are crucial:
- The dogs must already be introduced to livestock as puppies and raised in the herd.
- The dogs must learn to stay in the pasture and respect the electric fencing.
- The dogs may not hurt or chase the livestock.
- At least two dogs should be used for a herd. The dogs also need social contact to their own species. They then work as a team.
- The use of livestock guardian dogs is usually only economically reasonable for herd sizes of at least 100 sheep.
You can learn more about the use of livestock guardian dogs in the brochure "Herdenschutzhunde und sichere Einzäunung" (Livestock guardian dogs and safe enclosures) published by the State Office for the Environment, Agriculture and Geology (LfULG). The brochure "Umgang mit Herdenschutzhunden" (How to handle livestock guardian dogs) published by the Saxon State Ministry of the Environment and Agriculture provides more details on how to handle livestock guardian dogs if encountered.
Please refer to the website of Arbeitsgemeinschaft Herdenschutzhunde e.V. (Livestock guardian dog working group) for more information on livestock guardian dogs.
Other livestock guardian animals
In some countries other animals such as donkeys or lamas are used to protect sheep herds against coyotes, for example. However, there is debate whether they are also able to provide protection against wolves.