Yes to a law “for the long-term coexistence on Man and Wolf”

by Stefan Engler*, CVP Council of State and Vice President of the Committee “YES to a progressive Hunting Law”

The current hunting law is valid since 1985. Since then, many things have changed: For example, the number of protected species such as the wolf or the beaver has increased, which is good. This is a good sign for nature and species diversity in Switzerland.
    However, increased number of wolves also leads to issues for example in agriculture, tourism and amongst citizens. To better respond to the increasing wildlife stock and to protect the needs for both humans and animals, it is necessary to update the hunting law. This is gratifying.
    The revised hunting law serves to protect various wild animals and their habitats. Furthermore, it offers a pragmatic solution to handling the wolves, which returned to Switzerland in 1995. The wolf population is growing consistently; there were 80 wolves living in our country in 2019.
    Some wolves prey on sheep and goats and kill 300 - 500 animals annually. Herds protected by fences or dogs are affected as well because wolves learn to circumvent those protective measures. Also, some wolves lose fear of civilisation. The revised hunting law aims at smoothing conflicts that appear with the increased number of the wolf population.

Better Protection of Nature

The revised law provides several improvements for wild animals and their habitat. Reserves and protected areas, serving the animals as areas of retreat, as well as wildlife corridors will be funded with additional resources. Over 300 wildlife corridors are protected against construction throughout the whole of Switzerland. This way, their habitat is increased and connected. Wildlife corridors, including bridges and underpasses for roads and train tracks, will be cared for by the federal government and the cantons.
    The improvement of habitats for wild animals and birds, accomplished by the cantons in 80 confederate wild life protected areas and bird reservations, is supported financially by the federal government. Twelve wild duck species are not to be hunted at all in the future. Additionally, the hunting season for the woodcock will be decreased. The law obliges cantons and farmers to build wildlife friendly fences to decrease accidents and injury to the wild animals. These measures serve the diversity of species: they help to preserve the natural habitat of these animals and to protect nature itself.

Pragmatism in handling the wolf

The revised hunting law enables the cantons to regulate the wolf stocks, before wolves attack sheep and goats. However, the wolf remains a protected animal. The goal of this change of law is to keep the wolves’ natural timidity towards civilisation, to lower the damages to sheep and goat herds and thus decrease the amount of conflicts.
    The core aspect of the new law is that the executive responsibility in regulating protected species now lies in the hands of the respective cantons. Cantons know the area in which the predator lives. They are familiar with the routes of wolf packs. They support herd protection. They are in contact with the victims, and first and foremost, it is the cantonal gamekeepers who, if need be, have to pull the trigger. An intervention by gamekeepers is only permitted when measures to prevent damage alone do not suffice.
    The cantons are obliged to exhaust all possible measures before they interfere by shooting the wild life stock. We know from experience that protective measures alone are not enough when wolf packs are evolving. Wolves learn quickly how to avoid herd protection mechanisms. In order to keep them intimidated to settlements and protective structures , it is necessary to occasionally cull single wolves in a pack.
    Grazing animals in the mountain valleys are the most ecologic form of  domestication and must be maintained in the future. Herds need to be protected by adequate measures as long as they are realistic and reasonable - herein lies agriculture’s contribution. The hunters also have to adapt to new competitors and environmental circumstances.
    The new law builds a framework for a long-term coexistence of human and wolf. It deserves our approval. That is why I say with conviction: YES to the new hunting law!    •

Source: Swissinfo, 31 July 2020

(Translation Current Concerns)

Stefan Engler was a member of the cantonal government of Graubünden from 1998-2010 and headed the Department of Construction, Transport and Forestry. He has been a member of the Grisons Council of States since 2011.

What is the hunting law about?

by Monika Fry

Just as the ibex, the heraldic animal of the Bündnerland (canton of Grisons), is regulated in its population, the new hunting act should also be able to regulate the wolf population so that mountain and alpine farming, hiking and much more will continue to be possible. If wolves reproduce as they do now, there is a risk that many farmers will give up their farms because they are at the mercy of the phenomenon that they cannot protect their animals from wolf attacks despite herd protection measures. The farmers are attached to their animals and it hurts them to find the animals, which often have to be given “the coup de grace” (i.e. killed) after wolf attacks, seriously injured on their pastures. In the first half of 2020 there were already 120 livestock cracks in the canton of Grisons; in 2016 there were 50 per year. But these are only the losses of the clearly proven cases. Animals that flee, fall, or are no longer found as a result of wolf attacks, are not counted. In a short time two more wolf packs were found in the canton of Grisons, inevitably many more will follow. Hardly anyone can imagine what the abandonment of caring for the mountain landscape cultivated over centuries would mean. When everything is washed away, beautiful mountain meadows and our extensive network of hiking trails disappear. It is only thanks to the constant work of the farmers and the pasturing of sheep, cattle and goats that many accesses to the Alps are open to us at all.
    In a longer perspective, the spread of the wolf means that, in addition to the loss of alpine pasture land for the summering animals due to scrub encroachment, the characteristic cultural landscape for leisure, recreation and tourism as well as the plant and animal biodiversity will be lost. Even the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) says that if the Hunting Act is adopted, the wolf populations will continue to grow. So it is in no way a „shooting law“, as the environmental protection associations call it, but a sensible intervention to enable people to live together at all. •

Hunting Laws – most important planned changes

Federal Act on Hunting and the Protection of Wild Mammals and Birds (Swiss Hunting Law, JSG), amendment of 27 September 2019 (extracts)

Section 7a, Regulation of guarded species

1)  Following a BAFU hearing, cantons can plan a stock regulation for:
     a)  Ibexes: between 1 August and 30 November;
     b)  Wolves: between 1 September and 31 January;
     c)   other protected animal species which the Bundesrat declares needing to be regulated.

2)  Such regulations must not endanger the stock of the wildlife population and must be necessary for:
     a)  protection of the environment or preservation of species diversity;
     b)  prevention of damage or a severe threat to human beings; or
     c)   preservation of regionally adequate wildlife stock.

3)  Based on program agreements, the federal government grants global financial assistance to the cantons regarding the costs of supervision and implementation of measures for species described in paragraph 1.

Section 12 para. 2, 4, 5 and 6

2)  They [the cantons] can order or allow measures against single protected or huntable animals at any time, if the subject displays behavioural problems, inflicts damage or is considered a severe threat to human beings. Only eligible hunters and supervisional institutions may be contracted for the implementation of those measures. According to section 12 of the “Natur- und Heimatschutzgesetz (NHG)” (Nature and Cultural Heritage Protection Act) from 1 July 1966, there is no right of appeal against decrees regarding huntable animals [but there is against wolves! mw].

4)  Suspended

5)  The federal government funds and coordinates the measures of the cantons regarding prevention of wildlife damage caused by:
     a)  big predators on domestic livestock;
     b)  beavers on buildings and structures that lie in the public interest, and on opening  paths for agricultural companies or on embankments which are of meaning for high water safety;
     c)   otters on fish farms.

6)  The federal government can contract entities of public law or privateers with the implementation of tasks described in paragraph 5.

Section 13 para. 4 and 5

4)  The federal government and the cantons participate in the compensation of damage on the forest, agricultural cultures and domestic livestock caused by animals of certain protected species, if the tolerable measures to preserve wildlife damage have been taken. The Bundesrat determines these protected species after hearing the cantons as well as the requirements for liability to pay compensations.

5)  If the damage is caused by beavers, in addition to par. 4, the federal government and the cantons participate in the compensation of damage on buildings and structures that lie in the public interest, and on opening  paths for agricultural companies or on embankments which are of meaning for high water safety. Compensations may only be provided if the tolerable measures to preserve wildlife damage have been taken.

(Translation Current Concerns)

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