With French farmers and environmentalists at odds over increasing numbers of wolves killing more sheep, a plan to capture and tag problem predators, 'educating' the beasts into avoidance or identifying them for quicker elimination, is up for discussion.
The Local reported on the new plan to manage more efficiently France's 250 or so government-protected wolves (of the species Canis lupus, the largest wild dogs, also known as Gray or Grey Wolves) that Digital Journal reported were nearly hunted to extinction in the country in the 1930s.
Officials explained this latest "National Wolf Plan" for 2013-2017 would double as an experiment in "educating" these huge, meat-hungry canines to retreat from farming regions, back into remoter countrysides to hunt wild carnivorous fare, such as boars, deer and rabbits, according to The Local. Theoretically, proponents of the plan are maintaining, wolves could learn to avoid humans and flocks by developing a lasting aversion to the traumatic capture and marking process.
However, undeterred flock-attackers could be killed on sight more easily because their ID-tags would stand out when they encroached again, according to The Local. Thus, the plan involves targeting mostly repeat offenders (those not scared off by the experimental tagging ordeal that in effect grants them second chances), while allowing more of the country's most 'teachable' (that is, non-trespassing, civilization-avoiding) wolves to live, its authors are claiming.
French agricultural and ecology ministry officials have insisted wolves will remain a protected species, though the number of wolves allowed to be killed each year will be adjusted based upon scientific estimates of the numbers required to sustain a healthy wolf population; previously the limit was 11 wolves killed per year, The Local reported.
Because wolf-education has worked in experiments in the United States, the plan is worth a try in France, pro-wolf Nicolas Hulot Foundation spokesman Jean-Jacques Blanchon told The Local.
But others, herders and environmentalists alike, continue to express dissatisfaction with the plan, some claiming it's too flexible, others that it simply won't work, The Local article continued.
According to National Geographic, wolves were hunted to near extinction in the United States also, and have been restored through government protection and reintroduced into their natural habitats through wolf population management programs.