Wolves In France: The Hunt Is On

Antoine Agasse writes on July 28, 2011, on physorg.com, the article ”Ravenous  wolves  colonise France,  terrorise  shepherds.”

He writes, “Regional authorities estimate the French wolf population at between 170 and 200 this year, up from 140 to 170 last year. The government says wolves killed 1,329 animals, mostly sheep, in France this year up to July 22.” (203 days)

This means the wolves killed almost exactly one sheep per wolf a month (if all 1329 were sheep). Estimating the average weight of a sheep at 150 pounds (68 Kg), each wolf should be eating about 4.9 pounds (2.23 Kg) per day.

Gray wolves, Canis lupus lupus, can survive on about 2.5 pounds (1.1 Kg) of food per wolf per day, but they require about 7 pounds (3,2 Kg) per wolf per day to reproduce successfully. Adult wolves can survive for days and even weeks without food if they have to.

This implies that, either the French wolves are not (cannot) be ravenous as the article claims (“Ravenous  wolves  colonise  France,  terrorise  shepherds”), each wolf consuming 4.9 pounds (2.23 Kg) sheep meat per day (plus high probably also supplementing their sheep diet with other food sources,) or the estimated number of wolves and killed sheep is wrong.

“One such pack of fearless wolves swooped on a flock in broad daylight under the noses of two shepherds and five sheep dogs (…)”

Wolves don’t do that unless they are sick, e.g. rabid, which has not been reported. My guess is that either (1) they didn’t, or (2) they were not wolves, but maybe hybrids or even feral or stray dogs (as earlier confirmed on other locations. e.g. on the Abruzzi mountains in Italy).

“Police in the Alps told AFP they had authorised one such hit last weekend after a wolf devoured 10 sheep and sent a further 62 in panic plunging to their deaths in a ravine. Thirty went missing in the overnight attack.”

10 sheep equals about 1500 pounds (680 Kg) of meat. The most a large gray wolf can eat at one time is about 22.5  pounds (10.2 Kg). An animal that devours 10 sheep and is still hungry to send 62 away in panic (plus 30 missing) is not a wolf, but maybe a fiction-wolf!

“The state has already paid out 364,000 euros (530,000 dollars) to farmers and shepherds such as Vignon this year to compensate them for their mauled sheep.”

364,000 EUR for 1329 sheep gives a price of 273.90 EUR per sheep (if all the 1326 animals killed by wolves were sheep). Not a bad price at all and much better than to sell sheep on the market where a good purebred will fetch no more than 200 EUR.

“The head of the regional council, Jean-Louis Bianco, insisted however: “The wolf is no longer an endangered species.”

The wolves were extinct in France until recently. 200 wolves in the whole of France with an annual growth rate of 30 (15%) is no guaranty that they won’t be extinct soon again. This population growth has had a narrow genetic base, similar to the Scandinavian wolves, which  are more closely related to one another than full siblings. In Sweden the wolf population has grown in the last five years at a rate of about 19% and the Swedish government wants to keep them under 210 individuals.

He continues, “The shepherds and their flocks are the endangered species.”

Maybe by the EU subsides, certainly not by the wolf!

Keep smiling and howling.

R-