Sheep on the Dachstein get GPS trackers to protect them from wolves

Sheep on the Dachstein get GPS trackers to protect them from wolves
However, wolf attacks last year have unsettled farmers.

The herds that graze on the plateaus of the Dachstein/Krippenstein alpine pastures during the summer have been equipped with GPS trackers so that they can be monitored from the valley – virtually remotely. The reason for this measure is that wolf attacks last year made some farmers consider whether they should keep their animals in the valley. The agricultural department therefore had a herd protection concept drawn up.

  • From the archive (30.9.2023): On-site inspection at Krippenstein: The wolf and the search for sheep

The karst soils in the higher elevations of the Dachstein are not suitable for cattle, so they are grazed by sheep. Three alpine cooperatives with around 70 farmers cultivate the area, and in summer around 400 animals are herded, mostly endangered breeds such as the Alpine stone sheep and the brown mountain sheep. On the extensive areas, it is hardly possible to protect the animals with pasture fences; they can move around freely. However, wolf attacks last year have unsettled the farmers. According to the agricultural department, DNA has shown that eleven sheep were attacked by a wolf. Other animals have fallen to their deaths in panic, the herds are disturbed and often cannot be found for days. Many farmers ended the alpine season early and considered leaving their animals in the valley this year.

An end to grazing would also mean an end to the species-rich alpine ecosystem. The alpine grasslands would become overgrown. “Our farmers need to manage the pastures. It is only through pasture farming and care that the alpine pastures become a natural jewel,” stressed State Councillor for Agriculture Michaela Langer-Weninger (ÖVP). She has therefore initiated the creation of a four-stage herd protection concept, which will be implemented with the cattle drive up to the alpine pastures this weekend.

  • From the archive (17.7.2023): Alpine farmers in the Salzkammergut: “The wolf has no place here”

The first stage provides for “digital herd protection”: at least every fifth sheep will receive a GPS tracker, which costs 10,000 euros for 80 trackers. This will allow the behavior of the herd to be observed remotely and intervention to be made if unusual movement patterns are observed that suggest a wolf. Mobile electric fences can then be set up to ward off wolves at night, so-called night pens. If that is not enough, shepherds would also be an option – albeit an expensive one. If necessary, Langer-Weninger will also resort to drastic measures: “If a pest wolf specifically hunts alpine animals again this year, we will definitely allow it to be shot,” she announced.

  • From the archive (21.11.2023): Wolf commissioner assumes there are at least ten packs in Austria

Last year, a total of almost 180 alpine pastures with a total area of ​​3,900 hectares were cultivated in Upper Austria. 3,700 livestock units (LSU) were grazed on the Alps – a LSU is a statistical unit for livestock and corresponds to a dairy cow weighing 500 kilos or seven to ten sheep. The agricultural department attributes the decline in the number of sheep to the advance of the wolf.

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