The “Herdenschutz Niedersachsen” project – a practical approach for more acceptance
Location: Winsen (Aller) – Germany,
Story by: Peter Schütte
The “Herdschutz Niedersachsen” project, initiated by Naturschutzbund Deutschland Niedersachsen (NABU), advises and supports livestock owners who want to protect their animals from wolf attacks. The project intends to enable coexistence between grazing animals and wolves and thus increase acceptance for the wolf in a man-made landscape.
Like in other federal states in Germany, the wolf population in Lower Saxony is growing and livestock owners need to implement protection measures. Lower Saxony, as well as the other states, supports these measures financially (with fence material and livestock guarding dogs) through a Wolf Directive (“Richtlinie Wolf”). It provides support for sheep and goat farmers and gamekeepers, as well as cattle farmers in areas where calves already have been attacked. But the handling of the applications is currently taking far too long – in some cases, the applicants have to wait eight months to finally get the money (as of February 2020). Furthermore, they are left alone with the implementation, for example if they have questions on how to plan the protection measures on site and to set up wolf-proof fences.
Peter Schütte works for the “Herdenschutz Niedersachsen” project and has been advising livestock owners on protection measures since 2017:
We work with trained volunteers and organize short missions to build wolf-proof fences on site. Our range of “customers” is mixed: more than half of them are sheep and goat farmers, about a third own cattle, and since there are many horses in Lower Saxony, almost every fifth mission helps to protect horses.
“It is important to find an individual solution for each pasture. This requires on-site consultations and professional implementation.”
Our project also gives advice about livestock guarding dogs. We cooperate with experts from the local livestock guarding dog association and a sheep farm: two institutions with years of experience in breeding, training and keeping different breeds. Additionally, we regularly offer practical information and training sessions and also work closely with journalists and the media to share the knowledge that we acquire through our work with livestock owners.
“Events with a practical demonstration of the different tools – either with visual material or the actual technology or the dogs – are required to overcome prejudices and build up the necessary knowledge.”
There is still so much to do! Knowledge on how to build wolf-proof fences is not yet available everywhere. This means that they have not been installed throughout the country and there is a lot of work to be done. Furthermore, nature conservation conflicts arise and in a lot of places we have to fight ignorance or unwillingness to change. We know from our experiences that acceptance of fences or livestock guarding dogs increases as soon as they become common. This is why we continue to provide practical support and try to prevent mistakes. The correct earthing method for electric fences is for example still not well known, a fact that the manufacturers also complain about time and time again.
We also initiate and support scientific studies on the interaction between livestock in pastures and wolves. So far, too little is known about this relationship. We need reliable data to be able to successfully solve the conflicts connected to the return of large carnivores like the wolf. We need to better understand the obstacles and opportunities involved in implementing livestock protection measures, in order to create the conditions for the permanent coexistence of livestock, their owners and wolves.
“With our broad approach, we have become a link between livestock owners, authorities, associations, companies and science.”