WPIU Training in Austria
In July 2020 (02.07.2020) the theoretical part of the first Wolf Prevention Intervention Unit (WPIU) training course took place at AREC in Austria. Fourteen new WPIU members (machinery syndicate and AREC) received theoretical input on the biology of the wolf and on livestock protection measures.
Dr. Albin Blaschka, Austria center for bear, wolf and lynx, introduced the concept of WPIUs and talked about the aim of the LWA EU project, the coexistence between wolfs and humans. He also highlighted the importance of damage inspectors and DNA-tests to differ between natural deaths and deaths caused by large carnivores. He talked about skills that members of the WPIU should have: resilience, knowledge of the biology and the behaviour of the wolf and technical know-how.
The WPIU intervention should be conducted with a team of four people. The
equipment that is needed was also addressed and is listed in the AUSTRIAN
national strategy for WPIU. Moreover, the different laws of the nine federal states of Austria where part of the discussion.
The second part of Dr. Blaschka’s part was livestock protection. He explained and showed which measures should be applied and which are helpful.
Dr. Klaus Pogadl, federal state of Salzburg, talked about the legal situation – the FFH directive, Bern convention and national laws.
Reinhard Huber, AREC, addressed recent damaged caused by wolves and talked about the practical implementation of the WPIUs. Moreover, he discussed problematic circumstances in Austria, such as steep and rocky landscape in the Alps where fences can’t be built.
Dr. Georg Rauer, VUW, talked about the biology of the wolf. He showed differences between dog and wolf and explained how to differ between wolf-like dogs and real wolves. In addition, he addressed the distribution of the wolf in Europe and in Austria.
The practical part took place on the 10.07.2020 on the mountain Hauser
Kaibling, near Irdning and was led by Reinhard Huber, AREC. The WPIU members learned how to apply the technical equipment for the WPIUs.
In September 2021, a second task force for Tyrol, which can also cover the province of Vorarlberg, was trained in Tösens. The team members are members of the association Hirtenkultur, who all have experience in alpine pasturing of grazing animals. The legal status of large carnivores and the basics of biology and behaviour were also important for the participants. The largest part of the training was devoted to an exchange and discussion on the implementation of protection measures on high mountain pastures in the Tyrolean and Vorarlberg mountains. In steep terrain, it is usually not possible to set up a pen at the site of the attacks, so it is necessary to gather the animals and relocate them to a more suitable place for the pen. The problem with this is that in many alpine pastures the animals are used to being outdoors and do not know a shepherd dog. In this kind of intervention the shepherd dog would be a great support to gather the sheep and the dog could help to relocate the animals. If the sheep do not know or accept a shepherd dog, several people must be available to gather the animals. With four persons, the emergency team is at the lowest limit according to the opinions of experienced shepherds.
Two students of the HBLFA Raumberg-Gumpenstein, Antonia Redlsteiner and
Nadine Schranz, participated at a training course on the subject of wolves. The
LWA EU project was presented and possible problems between grazing animals and the return of the large carnivores were discussed. In order to enable coexistence between large carnivores and livestock, damage to livestock should
be kept as low as possible.
This can be achieved by taking some measures: with the improvement of pasture management, for example, a coupling system with an appropriate fence could be introduced for pastures. Unclear parts of the pasture could be grazed only during the day, etc. In herd management, births on pastures should be avoided as afterbirth and offspring could attract large carnivores. The students learned that all these measures mean increased effort for livestock farmers and sometimes additional staff. With the income from livestock farming, the additional expenses can usually not be covered, which is why there must be additional support.
Finally, on the 27.10.2021, eight more students took part in a further training course on the subject of wolves. The students came from all over Austria, which means that the information gained will be widely disseminated. They learned a lot about the project LWA EU, about the biology and distribution of the wolf and got to know different livestock protection measures. The interest was very high.