Authorities in the Bayrischzell district near the Austrian border have decided to allow the wolf to stay there at least for the winter. But strict protection laws are coming into conflict with concerns of alpine farmers.
The winter months, when farming in the Alps is suspended, should be used to develop a harm minimisation programme, said the head of the Bavarian Environment Ministry, Albert Göttle, according to daily Die Welt.
Wolves are strictly protected in Germany. They cannot be shot, nor resettled or even bothered in any way, unless there is strong evidence they pose a danger to humans.
This was not the case with this wolf, which was behaving completely normally, the daily reported Göttle as saying.
“Even the behaviour around human settlements is classed by our experts as normal,” he said.
However not all locals are so convinced.
“It is an area that is very heavily populated and in which the living space is very limited for a large predator,” said Jakob Kreidl, a councilor in the town of Miesbach.
The wolf was moving closer to populated areas, he said.
“I have indicated that people must take precedence over an animal,” he said. “We will observe further developments.”
After being driven out of Germany in the mid-1800s, wolves have returned to Germany over the past decade or so, mostly by migrating from the forests of Poland.
The Bayrischzell wolf has killed 21 sheep since last December. Five deer have also been found dead.
Some alpine farmers brought their sheep down from the higher-altitude pastures earlier than they would otherwise have. But Jakob Opperer, head of the Bavaria’s State Office for Agriculture, said this was no long-term solution.
Farmers are compensated for sheep killed under the wolf management plan. However Opperer said that “the financial loss is not the main problem for agriculture.”
A sheep also had an emotional value for farmers, he said.
Alpine farmers want to try out some new strategies next summer. Sheep dogs could be a solution, as could rounding up sheep at night.
Bavaria has taken an aggressive stance towards big predators in the past, including shooting Bruno the “problem bear” in 2006 after he made the mistake of wandering over the Alps into the southern German state. Bruno was the first wild bear in Germany since 1838.