European Parliament wants lower protected status for wolves

Wolves in the European Union should be less protected. That is the opinion of a majority of the European Parliament. It is the first time that the European Parliament has discussed the growing nuisance caused by wolves in such detail.

Dutch MEP Bert-Jan Ruissen (SGP), who co-sponsored the ECR resolution, is pleased with the support (306 in favour, 225 against, with 25 abstentions).  

“Wolves are strictly protected by the Habitat Directive, although they have long ceased to be threatened. This outdated legislation needs to be changed,” he said. “A new witch hunt for wolves,” MEP Anja Hazekamp (Partij voor de Dieren) calls the call.

The number of wolves under the protected status has increased rapidly over the past thirty years to more than 21,000 in Europe. Ruissen said guard dogs and fences are no longer enough to protect livestock in pastures from wolf attacks.

The non-binding call to lower the protected status 'when the wolf stock has recovered sufficiently' is addressed to the European Commission. In addition, the governments of the EU countries must also agree to it. The protected status of the wolf is not only laid down in the EU Habitats Directive, but also in the 'red list' of the Bern Convention. 

As an exception, under the current EU rules, problem wolves can already be shot. In Austria, a wolf was killed for the first time by hunters in the southern province of Carinthia on the basis of a provincial regulation at the beginning of this month.

The identity of this aggressive wolf was demonstrated on the basis of DNA traces on sheep and cows that had been bitten to death. Ruissen believes that the provinces should already make use of this possibility.

There are currently more than forty wolves living in the Netherlands. Three packs in the Veluwe and one in Friesland/Drenthe together had at least 16 cubs this summer. In addition, the presence of 19 vagrants has been established. For the wolf population, researchers do not look at individual wolves but at packs and flocks, as well as territories, which often cross borders. 

This year, 621 sheep have already been killed by a wolf in the Netherlands, more than twice as many as last year's 279. Sheep farmers can receive a maximum of 20,000 euros in provincial subsidy to take measures, such as installing power grids and high fences. But only in Drenthe almost 600,000 was paid out; in Friesland, Gelderland and North Brabant only a few thousand euros.