Damage prevention news

The OFB WPIU is in action in France!

30 November 2021

The two agents of the OFB Wolf Prevention Intervention Unit in France have been active in the field since the beginning of the summer!

The OFB WPIU is in action in France! - Life Wolfalps EU
Livestock guardian dog with sheeps at pasture ©OFB

The two WPIU OFB agents recruited in April received training in May with experts on agriculture and animal breeding and have been operational ever since. They have intervened mainly in wolf depredation hotspots and conducted field observations, including through thermal imagery equipment, to better understand the interactions between preventive measures (livestock guarding dogs, electric fences and human presence) and wolf behaviour. 

In fact, they have carried out 9 one-week interventions (4 consecutive nights) alongside breeders and shepherds in the administrative departments of Isère, Hautes-Alpes and Drôme in the northern French Alps.

The OFB WPIU is in action in France! - Life Wolfalps EU
OFB WPIU technician conducting night observation in the field ©OFB, BARNEIX

They were able to document interactions between the pastoral system and its environment, and sometimes record the behaviour wolves confronted with depredation preventive measures. Several wolves were observed during these nights of intervention, with a maximum of two individuals being seen simultaneously (see image below). Of 5 recorded wolf sightings, 4 show the predators moving within the pastoral system without attempting to attack livestock, while the 5th sighting is that of a wolf jumping into the night pen and attempting to capture sheep, before being disturbed and hazed away by the livestock guard dogs. The interaction between the dogs and the wolf lasted for no more than 30 seconds.

The OFB WPIU is in action in France! - Life Wolfalps EU
Two wolves pass alongside a herd of sheep without any attempt to attack (©OFB)

During these weeks of observation, many key elements to better understand the efficiency of preventive measures were also recorded, such as the size of the night pens, the composition and behaviour of livestock guarding dogs and the analysis of their movements through the use of GPS collars, as well as the behaviour of the herd and of dogs during night-time, particularly in the presence of wolves.

At the end of each week of intervention, a report was produced and sent to the various stakeholders in each territory: local authorities, breeders and shepherds, pastoral organizations and site managers.

The objective is to work closely with breeders and shepherds to provide them with as much information as possible to help them adapt their depredation preventive system to the local predation context in which they operate.