Thursday, April 14, 2011

Catalonian Government Employs Livestock Guardian Dogs Against Wolves

Italian wolves

The wolf has been sought throughout the western world as a cold-blooded killer for generations. Many stories abound of its bloodthirsty reputation as a stuff of nightmares, preying on the weak and the faint-of-heart. These include fairy tales like Little Red Riding Hood and the Three Little Pigs. There were even frightful tales of superstition concerning people themselves turning into these shaggy beasts. Much of these beliefs had always been affiliated with Europe, and had led to several thousands of wolves to become almost exterminated. However, relief came in coming years when conservation efforts were put into action to save the wolf from extinction. But although conservation efforts helped revive the remaining populations, many farmers and shepherds still lived in discomfort, fearing that the animals will one day prey on their livestock after their numbers grow exponentially. This prediction came true when wolves entered southern France after migrating outside Italy's Abruzzi area in the early 1990s. They eventually moved into the Pyrenees Mountains along the France-Spain border. This then led to a sharp increase in livestock killings in recent years. Records showed that at least 85 heads of livestock, mostly sheep and some young calves, were killed in 2004. The most recent record was last year when ten attacks were reported in the Barcelona municipal area. Based on the statistics, it seemed that the wolves' future was bleak. But this all changed when the Catalonian government offered Pyreanean mountain dog puppies to farmers as an alternative to prevent wolves from further preying on their livestock. The idea of having the dogs present would keep the wolves out of the farmlands, and encourage them to go after their natural prey as explained by Jordi Ruiz of Catalonia's Animal Protection unit.
Great Pyrenees

I'm very proud of the solution the Catalonian government came up, in order to help the region's farmers from further devastation by wild wolves. This is definitely a safe alternative, where neither the predator nor the unnatural prey is harmed. Based on what the government of Catalonia has done, I have a strong feeling that the future of the region's wolf population is bright. These animals will spend the remainder of their lives away from farmers' properties, and be out in the forests and meadows searching for regular prey like deer and wild boar. While it seems that Catalonia's wolf population is a success, it is not the same situation in the U.S. The state of the wolf population there has been a subject of debate for quite sometime, and there have been numerous considerations of stripping the animals of the endangered species status. This makes the species a vulnerable target to humans as an object of sport hunting. There have even been complaints of these animals preying on livestock at a large scale. I personally feel that the U.S government should follow the Catalonian government's example of coming up with a safer solution in preventing the animals from further predation on the livestock. This way, both cattle ranchers and wolves will benefit. Wolves may be associated with our nightmares, but in reality, they are a top predator whose population numbers are crucial in keeping the prey numbers in control. Without wolves, the world's ecosystems where they once thrived would be thrown off balance.

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