Wolfs are good neighbors – we humans just need to figure out how we can be good neighbors too.
Location: Bolesławiec – Poland,
Story by: null
Wolves were among the most common predators in European forests. The transformation of the environment and human politics have brought these animals to the brink of extinction. Today, about 2,000 wolves live in Poland. Often this predator is the subject of an unfair and unsupported bashing. Fortunately, there are people who educate and care about the honest image of this beautiful species and who work in local communities to help in every possible way.
Barbara, Eliza, Maciek, Łukasz – they founded an association for the protection of wolves (“With a gray behind the fence”) they have various jobs not necessarily related to nature conservation, but their common passion pushes them to action. Together with friends, they work in the field, showing people that coexistence is possible. They also help protect large predators, including wolves and other wild animals. They support local residents on a daily basis. They also publicize cases of abuse, poaching and monitor the decisions of the authorities.
“We met on the Internet, where each of us on our own tried to oppose in online discussions the reprimand on wolves. Each of us comes from a different region of Poland, we perform different professions, now we can say that we are also friends and we also meet live, although modern technologies make this contact incredibly easier for us”- say the members of the association.
One of the main achievements of the association is to build a reliable platform for contact and exchange of information. For many people living in the vicinity of large predators, a Facebook group is often the main source of knowledge, support or help.
“We lacked a place on the Internet where the wolf is talked about in a balanced way. There was an idea to set an online group “With Grey behind the fence”, today it has 12,000 members. Then we understood that in order for our voice to be heard also formally, we had to set up an association. In our group, everyone can express their views (they are often extremely different) and ask a question. There are scientists, foresters, naturalists, dog lovers, hunters, breeders, people who know wolves only from books and media, experienced off-roaders” – explain Eliza, Basia, Łukasz and Maciej.
Members of the association live in different places, but they use technology and social media, thanks to which they can operate almost throughout Poland. Representatives of the “Gray behind the fence” list their successes:
– We were the first to reach the superior of the prosecutor (known from the statement for Polish Press Agency), who dissociated himself from the words of his subordinate regarding the alleged attack of wolves on people working in the forest
– We were the first to reach, with a proposal for help, the Barwice Commune in which the conflict between the breeders and wolves escalated so much that the councillors voted to submit an application for the killing of wolves
– Our cooperation with the Department of Environmental Protection at the City Hall in Barwice resulted in the organization of a webinar on the protection of herds, human-wolf coexistence and the compensation payment system – for officials and breeders.
In addition, the association educates on the use of shepherd and guard dogs as an element of herd protection. It mediates between breeders and regional Directorates for Environmental Protection. It also reacts in case of suspicion of committing crimes (wolf trophies trafficking, poaching, etc.)
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.
What is “Gray behind the fence” planning in the future?
There is a dramatic lack of space in Poland for wolves, which cannot return to nature for various reasons (accidents, habituation, etc.). Our dream is to create such a real center – say the members of the association.
The need for practical support for the coexistence of humans and large predators was also noticed by WWF Poland. In 2021 alone, four regional directorates for environmental protection received a total of 20 sets of electric fences for breeders in the Lubuskie, Wielkopolskie, Podlaskie and Podkarpackie Provinces from the WWF Poland Foundation. To date, WWF Poland has donated about 500 electric fences to such farms throughout Poland to protect livestock from large predators, including 300 from wolves.