25 sheep killed in ‘Denmark’s biggest’ wolf attack

Around 25 sheep died at a farm in western Jutland on Wednesday in a suspected attack by wolves.

25 sheep killed in 'Denmark’s biggest' wolf attack
A photo of some of the dead sheep, which belonged to the Storålam company. Photo: Privatfoto/Peter Helén/Ritzau Scanpix

Farmer Jørgen Blazejewicz of the Storålam farm near Holstebro, West Jutland, confirmed the attack, as did the Environmental Protection Agency (Miljøstyrelsen, EPA).

DNA tests will be conducted in order to confirm that a wolf killed the animals.

“If this is a wolf attack, it is the largest wolf attack we have seen in Denmark,” EPA advisor Lasse Jensen said.

“An EPA wolf consultant has inspected the attack and we can say with certainty that there was an attack. A series of DNA samples have been taken and these will be sent for analysis to confirm this was indeed a wolf attack,” Jensen said.

In February last year, 21 sheep were killed by wolves in the same area of West Jutland.

Blazejewicz said the new attack carried similarities to the one which occurred last year.

“The bites (on the sheep) are savage, and their throats crushed in some cases. They sheep had not been eaten, so it makes no sense,” Blazejewicz said in the press statement.

The EPA said that fencing keeping wolves away from the sheep may have been inadequate.

“The sheep were, as far as I am aware, released a few days ago in an area enclosed by an inadequately maintained fence. There was thereby relatively easy access for the animal or animals, which may have been wolves,” Jensen said.

“In the same area this month, sheep have been released into three other enclosures without any attacks resulting. These enclosures were maintained regularly. That shows how important it is for fencing to be adequate,” he continued.

Shepherd Peter Helén suggested in comments to local newspaper Jydske Vestkysten that sabotage may have caused the incident.

“There was not much current in the fence, and we found a hole measuring 90 by 90 centimetres,” Helén told the newspaper.

“An idiot made that hole. It was done with pliers. Anyone can see that, so I am scared, because what kind of idiot goes around in the countryside and thinks it’s fun to see sheep get killed?”, he added.

Last year, a total of 28 wolf attacks on domesticated animals were registered in Denmark.

The animal returned to the country during the last decade after not being seen in the wild since the 19th century.

READ ALSO: Denmark to tag wolves in effort to learn more about returning species

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France’s wolf population rises once again

France's wild wolf population rose again last year, with officials counting 580 adults at winter's end compared with an average of 530 a year ago, France's OFB biodiversity agency said Tuesday.

France's wolf population rises once again
A woman holds an image of a wolf as people take part in a demonstration of several wildlife conservation associations, to protest against the hunting of wolves. AFP

The government has been allowing grey wolves to multiply despite fierce resistance from livestock owners, who say they are suffering from increased attacks on their flocks.

But this winter's increase was slower than the 23 percent jump seen the previous year, and “survival rates declined,” the OFB said, adding that the causes remained unknown.

Wolves were hunted to extinction in France by the 1930s, but gradually started reappearing in the 1990s as populations spread across the Alps from Italy.

Their numbers have grown rapidly in recent years, prompting authorities to allow annual culls to keep their numbers in check, though the predator remains a protected species.

READ ALSO: Where in France will you find wolves?

Under a “Wolf Plan” adopted in 2018, the “viability threshold” of 500 animals, the level at which the population is likely to avoid becoming at risk of extinction over a 100-year period, was not expected to be reached until 2023.

Wolves are increasingly spotted across French territory, from the Pyrenees mountains as far north as the Atlantic coastal regions near Dieppe.

But “there are still no packs formed outside the Alps and Jura,” the heavily forested region near the Swiss border, the agency said.

The numbers are far below those found in Italy, Romania or Poland, but they have nonetheless infuriated French farmers who say the wolves are decimating their flocks.

Last year, authorities registered 3,741 wolf attacks that led to the deaths of nearly 12,500 animals, mainly sheep.

The government offers compensation for the losses and has set up a range of measures to protect flocks, including patrols by “wolf brigades” in areas where traditional anti-wolf measures, such as dogs, fenced-off areas and 
additional shepherding, have failed.

That has not been enough to assuage the powerful FNSEA agriculture lobby and other groups, which say they have to wait too long for compensation payments in the face of repeated attacks on their livelihood.