- Communications project wolf II
- Wolves and Cattle
- Completed projects
Wolves and Cattle
Since the return of wolves to Switzerland in the 1990s, studies on interactions between wolves and livestock and damage to livestock have mainly focused on sheep. In recent years, however, attacks on bovids (cattle) and, to a lesser extent, also equids (horses and donkeys) have been increasingly recorded in some regions. Cow husbandry is not only economically but also culturally deeply rooted in Switzerland. A low-conflict coexistence of cattle breeders with the wolf is therefore essential for the acceptance of the wolf in Switzerland. However, little is known about the factors influencing attacks on bovids and equids, how bovids/equids react to wolf presence and which measures are effective to reduce attacks.
The overall objective of this project is to establish a knowledge base for low-conflict coexistence between bovid/equid breeders and wolves. To do so, we will investigate circumstances that facilitate attacks on bovids and equids in order to identify possible risk areas. In addition, the effectiveness of herd protection, aversive conditioning and lethal management measures will be tested to find out in which situations which measures are most effective. Furthermore, we will investigate possible behavioural changes in bovids and equids after local wolf presence (e.g. increased aggressiveness or nervousness). An important goal of the project is also to develop a communication strategy to reach local stakeholders and other important target groups with information from the project and to facilitate a fact-based knowledge exchange and implementation of measures.
First, we will gather evidence on attacks on bovids/equids and possible livestock protection as well as non-lethal and lethal management measures from other countries. In order to better understand the movement behaviour of wolves in the cultural landscape of Switzerland, we will analyse already existing telemetry data but also aim to equip further wolves with GPS collars in the project regions.
Various factors can influence attacks on bovids/equids. In order to investigate which factors are indicators for a high risk of attacks on bovids/equids, information on all bovids and equids that were injured or killed by wolves will be analysed. On the one hand, we will record parameters such as age, social organization or pack structure of the wolves responsible for attacks. On the other hand, we will gather additional information on factors such as age, breed, whether or not the bovids were horned, health status of the bovids/equids, protective measures taken and the herd composition of the attacked bovids/equids. We will then analyse the influence of these factors on the risk of damage and identify circumstances that may lead to increased risk. Through behavioural observations of equids and bovids, we will investigate whether their behaviour changes after being approached by wolves. For this purpose, we will also equip bovids/equids with GPS collars with the support of farmers. In addition, we will analyse the effectiveness of different measures such as herd protection, aversive conditioning, and wolf removal. For this purpose, we will use existing data on the one hand, but also conduct experiments in cooperation with AGRIDEA in order to test specific measures.
The project is financed by a private foundation and is carried out in cooperation with AGRIDEA and the cantonal authorities of Grisons and Vaud. Part of the project will be implemented as part of a doctoral thesis at the University of Lausanne.
Project duration: 2022-2026
Study area: GR and VD
Contact: Christian Stauffer