Devil in the Details – Investigating the Depredation
Location: Eger – Hungary,
Story by: Péter Gombkötő
Bélapátfalva is small settlement in North Hungary in the Bükk mountains. Péter Gombkötő, chief zoological officer of the Bükk National Park Directorate, often visits small villages such as Bélapátfalva when he is called to investigate wolf depredation. The situations, however, are always different. This time for example he was called to a situation where a limped wolf attacked a shepherd’s animals. Péter knew that injured lone animals always look for an easy prey. But he did not think that this wolf had found the jackpot.
Wolves are present in the North Hungarian Mountains. More precisely in the Bükk Mountains we have had date about appearance of wolves since the 80s, and since 2000 we have had date about wolves breeding in the area of the Bükki National Park Directorate (BNPD).
When Peter was called by a shepherd to investigate a wolf attack, he noticed that based on the signs, a wolf was truly around the herd but it didn’t prey upon the sheep. As it turned out, in the middle of the herd there was a depot for carrion, which aggregated the scavengers from the forest in hope of a feast. In these cases, it is of paramount importance to humbly let the stakeholders know that they could use a better practice for the removal of cadavers.
Back when this happened the national park directorate could not provide electric fence to the livestock breeders so in the lack of a better solution, Péter suggested the shepherd should use his livestock guarding dog to patrol the perimeter of the field and spread the scat of the dog. Besides, Péter asked the shepherd to eradicate the depot of cadavers. After the shepherd did what Péter asked, the wolf has never returned.
I’ve been called by a lot of farmers to investigate. My general experience is that they are not prepared, which of course has financial reasons, not only technical”
says Péter Gombkötő. Situations are not always this easy to solve, but Péter thinks that being on the same understanding with shepherds and various stakeholder groups, as well as investigating every situation in details will lead to a better coexistence with large carnivores.
Besides technical solutions, events where we can talk about problems and challenges could help to understand each other
adds Péter Gombkötő.
Damage inspection and prevention
For many shepherds and livestock owners it is difficult to get information about the behaviour of large carnivores, the actual risks as well as prevention measures and possibilities of funding. Especially in countries where there is a growing number of them the farmers need help support to establish the right tools to avoid attacks. In many countries there are specialized consultants who can visit the farmers at site and hand on their knowledge. They will also be the first ones to call when a damage has happened. With their proven expertise they can inspect the dead or wounded animals to find and document evidence. Often those experts are authorized by the government and take over regional responsibility – this way they can be fast at site and ensure that compensation will be payed, if a wolf, lynx, bear or wolverine attacked the livestock despite the protection measures.
It is a challenge to implement effective livestock breeding methodology. It is essential that farmers prepare for the presence of large carnivores and organize the defense of their livestock accordingly (e.g. with human presence and livestock guarding dogs). The national park directorate has supported the farmers with electric wire fences in the last 4-5 years. These effective defense techniques should be integral part of livestock breeding in the areas where wolves are present. In addition to this, a support scheme for the farmers would acknowledge the risks posed by the presence of large carnivores.