The forerunner of coexistence
Location: Lombardia – Italy,
Story by: Giuseppe Salvi
Giuseppe Salvi and his wife raise a herd of about 1.400 animals on Orobie Bergamasche Alps, in the highest pasture of the area at 2.400 m. He has been dealing with wolves and bears since 2000, when such animals were still seen as strangers. He respects them and knows that he should share territory with them but, on the other hand, livestock-breeding makes his living and he doesn’t want to waste his daily hard work. For this reason, since 2011 Giuseppe has joined projects allowing him to manage successfully his company and, at the same time, live together with large carnivores.
Wolves and bears are coming back to Orobie Bergamasche Alps. When I set up my business was nearly impossible to notice wolves and bears, I could let my herd pasturing freely around with no predation danger. Then, the first rumours about large carnivores occurrences started to spread out and, suddenly, fears to lose our animals became real.
The thing is that neither me, nor my colleagues had any clue about how to deal with such a new menace; to us, it was a completely new situation and the stories that were circulating were a bit daunting. Besides the emotional side of the matter (which exists, I assure you!), the thought that worried me the most was the possible effect that large carnivores comeback could have had on my business. My family makes its entire living on meat processing and I could absolutely not afford to lose sheep and goats. It’s very unlikely that shepherds like me will become large carnivores best friends, but we are aware that persecuting them is not a solution.
Generally, people think that shepherds are closed-minded and rather unwilling to accept advice from the outside world. But it’s not always the case. When I was forced to address the large carnivores comeback issue, I noticed there were experiences in Italy and other countries that tried to make livestock farming in the presence of wolves and bears possible.
I thought it could have been the best solution, I looked into it and found that there were tools able to help me protecting my herd from large carnivores. The first tool I set up in 2012 was an electric fence, which has been donated by LIFE Arctos project. I was one of the first shepherds to use such a tool in the area but I didn’t care about other people’s opinions.
Then, I noticed that there were many opportunities to improve and make my breeding activity safer: European projects, regional funding and, in general, help coming from the outside world made me managing my business with little concerns about wolves and bears comeback. I set up other prevention measures such a wolf-proof fence and three guarding dogs thanks to Pasturs project.
Livestock Guarding Dogs
Livestock guarding dogs defend the herd against attacks by wolves. They feel like part of the herd and settle down with the pet owner. The dogs live permanently outside and defend “their” herd against all intruders from the outside. Well-trained livestock protection dogs are no danger to walkers and hikers, but these should lead their dogs on a leash. To make this work, well trained herd protection dogs are required, which are adapted to the type of grazing by the livestock. This requires regular checks made by experienced people so that the dogs do not start to behave incorrectly.
Prevention measures to live together with large carnivores are within our grasp. Dealing with them is not easy, but it’s necessary to implement concrete solutions like guarding dogs, which I’m very happy about. It’s not only a matter of tools, but above all of mentality. On Orobie mountains I’m noticing that it’s shifting; for instance, I’m presently working with 8 other colleagues in Pasturs project that not only does provide us with help and tools making our daily job easier, but also creates a dialogue between my world and citizens’ one. I think that it’s important to make others realize how difficult being a shepherd is.