Of course, René Gomringer is very worried. The 68-year-old agricultural engineer from Beilngries in the Altmühltal keeps 20 sheep and two horses – most of the year outdoors. Almost two years ago a young she-wolf immigrated to the Altmühltal. It has its territory near Eichstätt, less than 40 kilometers away from Gomringer’s pastures. “It’s not a route for such a young she-wolf, she walks back and forth in one night,” says Gomringer, who was managing director of the Bavarian Sheep Farmers’ Association for many years and has great expertise in livestock husbandry. “I often think to myself what if the she-wolf attacks my animals one night?” Like Gomringer, many shepherds and other livestock owners worry that at some point a wolf could harm their cattle. Especially in the regions of the Free State in which wolf packs or individual wolves that are faithful to their location already live.
This Saturday, the Bavarian Farmers’ Association is calling for a large rally against the resettlement of Bavaria by wolves. It takes place in Munich, the motto is “Ausgebimmelt”. Not only farmers from Bavaria are expected. But also from South Tyrol, Tyrol and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, where there are many more wolves than in Bavaria. She expects up to a thousand participants at the farmers’ association. They all share the conviction that wolves in Bavaria and grazing sheep and cattle, but also horses and other livestock in meadows and pastures, do not go together. If the predators should spread unhindered again, the farmers have already declared at many rallies, demonstrations and other events that, in their opinion, sooner or later it will no longer be possible to keep pastures and in particular alpine farming.
From the point of view of many farmers, wolves are far too protected. According to belief, there are so many wolves around the world and meanwhile also in Europe that the strong protection of the predators is no longer appropriate. Together with the farmers’ association, they are calling for the EU to lower the protection status. They also require kills to be made easier. The alpine farmers in the Upper Bavarian mountains and the alpine shepherds in the Allgäu Alps would prefer if the Free State could enforce that alpine pastures and Alps were kept completely free of wolves. They have the support of the state government. Agriculture Minister Michaela Kaniber (CSU), but also Economics Minister Hubert Aiwanger (FW), who is himself a farmer, repeatedly declare that they are also against protecting wolves and making it easier for them to be killed.
Killing them wouldn’t solve the problem
René Gomringer, who is a sheep farmer with heart and soul, will not go to the rally in Munich. The 68-year-old understands the worries and fears of his colleagues very much. But he thinks little of such protests and the demands that are usually made loudly there. “The wolf really doesn’t care how much he is protected,” says Gomringer. “The predators are cultural followers, they get along very well in our cultural landscapes. That is why they spread again with us.”
From Gomring’s point of view, the requirement to make shooting easier also makes little sense. “For one thing, there is no evidence that it could be answered quickly,” he says. “But even if it could be enforced, it will take many years. And the time until then When do we animal owners have to somehow come to terms with the wolf.” On the other hand, Gomringer is convinced that killing them will not solve problems with wolves. “Because for every wolf that IS shot down, someone else WILL follow suit,” says the sheep farmer.
Gomringer’s credo is therefore that “we livestock keepers must learn to live with wolves again”. And that means taking precautions so that the predators do not have an opportunity to attack sheep or other livestock in the pastures as far as possible. “The best means are fences,” says Gomringer. “And no longer fences, but secure fences.” They are often possible with very simple means. Gomringer used to have three strands in the fences around his sheep pastures. Now there are four. In the past, the strands were only under tension when the sheep were out in the pasture. Now the current is always flowing. “Because the wolf should always stay away from my pastures, regardless of whether there are sheep in there or not.” In addition, Gomringer now checks his sheep twice a day. He used to only do this once a day.
Of course, small measures like these are not enough. Together with nature conservation associations such as the Bund Naturschutz, Gomringer demands that the Free State massively expand its herd protection offers. For example, the Free State only pays the grazing animal keepers protective fences in narrowly defined regions in which wolves have been detected. Gomringer demands that the funding be extended to all of Bavaria. In addition, there should be grants for the maintenance of the systems.
Above all, however, the state government should work to ensure that grazing is more worthwhile again. “Completely independent of the wolf, it involves an immense amount of work,” says Gomringer. “The prices for the meat, the milk and the wool are so low that it is not really worth the effort. That is a much bigger problem than the wolf.”