Wolves in Switzerland – the Federal Council must act!

Open letter from the Swiss Association for the Protection of Rural Habitats from Large Predators (Berne) to Federal Councillor Simonetta Sommaruga, Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications (DETEC) of 6 July 2021

Dear Ms Federal Councillor

The representatives of the mountain cantons urgently call upon you as head of the responsible Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) to take rapid measures against the uncontrolled spread of the wolf. The situation in the affected regions is threatening to get completely out of control. In the canton of Grisons and in other cantons, conditions prevail we have been warning about for years and which are now sadly part of everyday life:

  • A sharp increase in deadly attacks on protected flocks of sheep and emergent cessation of alpine pasturing already at the beginning of the grazing season, as recently happening in the regions of Klosters or in the Goms.
  • Attacks on herds of cows, which lead to panic and cow crashes.
  • Possible encounters with the wolf at any time of day or night.
  • Roving packs of wolves in and around villages, without shying away from humans and their possessions.
  • Keeping cattle in species-appropriate loafing yards can hardly be practised safely any more.
  • Herd protection efforts have to be increased constantly. Damages continue to increase even on protected meadows and alps.
  • Alpine tourist regions are becoming unsafe for humans.

There is an urgent need for action and clarification on numerous points that were not dealt with in the framework of the previous amendment of the Ordinance, such as in the areas of

  • protection and safety of the population,
  • creation of priority areas for livestock and wildlife,
  • preventive regulation of the wolf population,
  • clear definition of protectable and non-protectable pasture areas with validation of the cantonal alpine pasture planning by the FOEN,
  • full compensation for herd protection measures and payment of summering contributions despite premature cessation of alpine pasture after wolf attacks,
  • support for tourism regions concerning protection of guests and safeguarding of hiking trails,
  • enforcement of the Swiss request to downgrade the protection status of the wolf in the Bern Convention.

As the Federal Council explained in its answers to the parliamentary requests, a baseline study by Agroscope is expected in autumn 2022 which will describe the necessary action required and propose measures. In autumn 2023 the Federal Council will then publish a report on the subject. In the face of the urgent need for action, the affected population feels being left alone and not being taken seriously with the prospect of a report in two years’ time. What is needed now are practice-oriented solution approaches, which could for example be tested within the framework of geographically and timely restricted pilot projects. The results of the pilot projects will create the necessary basis for nationwide effective measures.
  Without the possibility and the perspective to counteract the massive increase in wolf attacks, the affected mountain areas will bleed to death in a short time. The care and the maintenance of an open landscape of the biodiverse mountain pastures are in danger. There is a threat of scrub encroachment of whole valleys and the associated loss of biodiversity.
  We would therefore like to enter into a dialogue with you, Madam Federal Councillor, as soon as possible, and present our concerns to you at first hand. Furthermore, we would be pleased to show you possible options for action which could support the alpine and pasture farming in dealing with the wolf.
  We look forward to receiving your invitation.

Kind regards

NR Monika Rüegger (Co-President IG-Security),
Georges Schnydrig and Germano Mattei (Co-Presidents of the Swiss Association for the Protection of Rural Habitats from Large Predators)

(Translation Current Concerns)

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