Being a shepherd may be more difficult when wolves are around
Location: Telgárt – Slovakia,
Story by: Samuel Ibik
Samuel Hríbik is a shepherd from the Horehronie region (Slovakia), an area where large carnivores always have been present. He understands that his herds are endangered by wolf attack. Although there have been attacks of wolves and the compensation system is not covering all the costs he wants to keep his herd of sheep and goats and is positive about large carnivores.
“I live in a place where large carnivores are present and have always been. And I live with the knowledge that it often happens that our herds are endangered, “
says Samuel Hríbik, a farmer from Telgárt.
The biggest attack that Samuel Hríbik remembers took place several years ago. He grazed sheep and goats outside the village and always went to lock them in the stable during the night. But he didn’t come that evening. He was busy with dialing honey until late night, so he didn’t make it. In the morning he found 14 dead sheep and goats in the pasture. Today, he would say that “wolves came like in the fast food”, but at that time it was hard. When he saw the killed animals, it was immediately clear that a wolf had attacked them. “It wasn’t the first time I have seen animals killed by a wolf, but I was surprised by their numbers.”
There was no such big attack by wolves since then. Although wolves still come and sometimes they manage to kill some sheep, but is not in such numbers. The experiences shows that even an electric fence may not fully protect the sheep. Wolves know very well how to scare them by pushing all of them in one corner that can cause damaging the fence. An effective and good fence must contain at least 5 ropes and it is important to have at least one guard dog.”
Experts say that during such massive attacks wolves teach cubs to hunt. It can also be an important survival strategy.
“After the attack, I talked to friends who manage wolf research. According to their explanation if wolf have a chance to catch bigger prey, he would do so. Some of the prey is consumed and some buried in the ground or dragged into a stream, where it could last longer and is protected from flies”,
says Samuel Hríbik.
Samuel Hríbik doesn’t ask for compensation for sheep, especially because of the great bureaucracy and administrative burden. One of the condition is, that the herds must be protected. In the Czech Republic, farmers can apply for a subsidy for electric fences, sheep-fold or shepherd dogs. In Slovakia, the state does provide subsidies for such activities. And if they suffer damage, an investigation begins instead of help. This is also one of the reasons why local farmers doesn’t support conservation efforts.
Electric fences are an important foundation for protecting herds. Through the painful contact, the predators learn to stay away from farm animals. We recommend a fence system with five taut wires, at least 90 centimeters high and with a minimum voltage of 2,000 volts. It is important to remove the grass under the fence, since otherwise the electricity is permanently discharged. Holes made by lynxes and badgers must also be removed, as otherwise the wolf uses them for digging through. Some vendors specialize in fences that are very easy to assemble and disassemble mechanically – they are particularly suitable for mobile use.
“I would welcome further development of the region based on nature tourism. Many tourists are interested in nature and local farm products and the love to come to Telgárt. However, local people are not in favour of conservation activities. It is related to the fact that the locals consider conservationists as opponents of economic development.
He believes solutions are in better communication and cooperation with young people, who decided to stay and provide local business in the region.
“We need to stay here and show different alternatives to make a better future for locals and our nature.”