“The wolf could be part of the solution”
Location: Gloggnitz – Austria,
Story by: Franz Puchegger
The forest manager, hunter and chairman of the Austrian Hunting Association, Franz Puchegger, is in favor of the return of the large carnivores.
There are only few countries in the world where hoofed game densities are comparably high. Therefore, the table is richly set. The wolf is not a problem in my view, but could be part of the solution by helping to regulate unnaturally high populations, especially of roe deer and wild boar. The wolf would be beneficial and an asset for forest rejuvenation and for an ecological hunt.
However, it is important to me to paint a realistic picture of large carnivores like wolves. Scare tactics are as out of place as exaggerated natural romantic notions. In my view, the topic is currently just being wrongly tackled, even on the part of the traditional trophy hunters. Urgent hunting topics such as the excessive high hoofed game stocks in Austria are obscured by highly emotional debates. This is partly also used strategically.
We don’t hear much constructive discussion. The hunt will have to adjust to the return of large carnivores and develop the existing hoofed game management accordingly. In return, we should welcome the biodiversity that we gain when the wolf, lynx and bear return home.
Where the wolf hunts, the forest grows … says a Russian proverb. For centuries the wolf has been at the top of the food chain in our latitudes and has regulated all smaller wildlife. The presence of prey species in the ecosystems is similar to that observed in the Romanian Carpathians today: the deer population is physically vital but small in number, with two to three per thousand hectares, and the biodiversity is of ingenious interaction numerous organisms — Franz Puchegger on waldholz.at
Of course, the concerns of farmers who are afraid of wolves tears and subsequently fear for their existence must be taken absolutely seriously, and those affected need to be objectively informed.
From noble hobby to ecological handcraft
This is how one could describe the change I have in mind for a contemporary hunt. From the point of view of the Ecological Hunting Association, a lot of fundamental things have to change: we need to do away with resentment of hunting, feeding, all kinds of gates, trophy obsessions and shooting plans.
IMPLEMENTING TRIED-AND-TESTED MEASURES
In regions where grazing prevails, it is up to the politicians to quickly make appropriate arrangements. For example through the promotion of electric fences, herd protection dogs, shelters and compensation payments. Damage and other disadvantages of management must be fully compensated for. If all herd protection measures have been implemented, we can talk about allowing the release of damaged wolves as the last possible measure. However, this will not be necessary if targeted measures discourage damage from the outset, as has been demonstrated in cases in Italy, France, Spain, Switzerland, Romania, Germany and other countries spanning decades.
ENOUGH SPACE AND FOOD AVAILABLE
The wolf will spread relatively quickly throughout Austria. There are only a few countries in the world where peer-to-peer densities are comparably high. Therefore, the table is richly set. The wolf has space wherever there is little or no grazing. These are above all broad forest areas such as the Vienna Woods, the Bohemian Forest, the Kobernaußer Forest, the Leitha Mountains. But also in national parks, at all major military training areas, in biosphere reserves, wilderness areas such as Dürrenstein, jungle remains and natural forest reserves. If all wolf habitats become occupied again in Austria, it is also conceivable for the Ecological Hunting Association that a certain number of wolf shots will be required to restore balance. This would make the wolf again a hunted animal. Similar to the bear hunt in Slovenia, where about 100 bears per year are taken because there are too many there and a reduction makes sense.
Promote tried-and-tested solutions
I recently hosted an event in Lower Austria for the Ecological Hunting Association. It had the provocative title of “Wolf and / or Mouflon in the Waldviertel?” The Lower Austrian Waldviertel is an area where the first wolf pack in Austria formed on a military training area of 15,000 hectares in 2016 after more than 100 years. The discussion was objective and composed with an informative focus. Afterwards, everyone present – hunters, farmers and nature conservationrepresentatives – gave very positive feedback. It can be seen clearly: once people have a certain level of knowledge, the bridges no longer seem so insurmountable. It is a fascinating thought that wolves and humans could live together in the future.