“Aaooouuuu”…. At 9 p.m. sharp, under the amused gaze of some campers, the expert yells into his fluorescent orange megaphone to call the canines on the hills of the massif, near the village of Presles, in the ‘Isere.

He hopes for a cry of response, to know if any young have been born and if a second pack has appeared.

In Isère, as elsewhere, gray wolves have had favorable demographics for the past ten years, which delights nature lovers but angers breeders. Their population, originally from Italy, was estimated at more than 920 specimens at the end of winter 2021-2022 across the country, according to the latest OFB count.

“The provoked screaming operation is not a count”, specifies Philippe Cotte. It is done “at the request of breeders” if they spot wolves in an unusual area and allows you to know if births have taken place in the spring.

“The adults have quite loud cries, while those of the cubs sound like little yelps of young puppies,” he says before ringing out his voice to imitate them.

“The first years, we laughed a lot”, confides this connoisseur of local wildlife; “This is the essential tool,” he smiles, brandishing his plastic cone that he has been carrying with him since the start of the operation.

The method, which came from the United States, has proven itself, it has been used in France since the 2010s.

That evening, six teams, made up of breeders, hunters and wolf hunters, supervised by the OFB, were spread over the area near Presles.

After three calls, the valley remains desperately silent. Suddenly the technician listens… “It’s a tawny owl”, he breathes, looking crestfallen.

Let’s fight. After conferring, the teams decide to reposition themselves where the wolves were seen last year, at the same time.

At the next hourly signal, around 10:30 p.m., Philippe and one of his colleagues, with serious faces, let out a long “aaoooouuuu”.

At the end of ten seconds, it is the reward: wolves, very close, answer, in a concert of joyful howls and serious cries.

“Protocol completed”, says the OFB technician soberly. No doubt, babies were born. On the other hand, it is difficult to comment on the presence of a second pack.

The one identified in 2019 is giving breeders in the region a hard time. “Defense shots” are also regularly authorized by the prefect, so as to reduce the pressure on the herds. In the neighboring department of Drôme, two animals were killed in two weeks. The French authorities have set the maximum slaughter right at 19% of the wolves listed at the national level – or 174 animals.

-“Living world”-

Elisabeth Rousseau, sheep breeder for 25 years near Presles, does not believe in defensive shots.

His flock was attacked two years ago: nine mothers and 21 lambs were killed. Since then, she has changed her way of working and the wolves have not done any more damage.

“We made smaller parks, with electric wires”, explains this dark and slender fifty-year-old in front of the enclosure where her 65 ewes graze under the supervision of Pompilio and Nanook, the two patou dogs.

Singular voice, Elisabeth Rousseau advocates cohabitation. “It’s an animal that puts us in check and forces us to think about our management of the living world, which is deplorable”, explains the one who defends a “more discreet” action on nature and describes herself as a defender of the biodiversity as a whole.

For her, the wolf should have “the right” to take “a little bit” from the herds each year. “It’s up to the breeder to make an effort” and “everyone to understand that the animals are there”: “you have to learn to create this neighborhood”.

To do this, according to her, breeders must adapt and be helped to install electric fences, which are very expensive. They also have to, she adds, reduce herd sizes and work with dogs.