The annual estimate of the wolf population is eagerly awaited by both breeders whose animals can be prey, and conservationists, the former believing that the growth of the wolf population is proof that they do not are more in danger and that it is necessary to make shooting easier to protect their herds.

The wolf is a wild animal living over large areas. Since its population cannot be counted precisely, it is estimated from indices (visual observation, footprints, dejection, etc.) and the French Office for Biodiversity (OFB), a public body in charge of monitoring wolves, publishes a fork.

For 2020-2021, it has refined its method through the analysis of genetic results and revised the number of adult wolves to 783 wolves, against 624 estimated previously, a figure “at the top of the range” published last year, specifies to AFP Loïc Obled, deputy director general of the OFB.

For 2021-2022, the range is 826 to 1,016 Gray Wolves.

As part of the training offered by the OFB, new people joined its network of correspondents, which made it possible to increase the number of signs of presence collected.

“New sectors (…) have also been studied”, says the prefect of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, in charge of the cohabitation of this natural predator with the herds and the breeding activity.

The gray wolf, which returned to France on its own from Italy, has experienced favorable demographic dynamics (…) for 10 years, with “a satisfactory survival rate for the species and an increase in reproduction”, according to a press release from the prefect.

It has been seen as far as Finistère, but “there are no packs settled outside the Alpine arc”, specifies Loïc Obled. The number of packs is also increasing (19 in 2020 and 29 in 2021).

– Falling attacks –

“The lupine population was well underestimated”, immediately reacted the National Sheep Federation (FNO), which questioned, like others up to the former Minister of Agriculture Julien Denormandie, the scientific method of the OFB.

Agricultural unions (FNSEA, / JA / FNO / FNB / Chambers of Agriculture) and the National Federation of Hunters (FNC) speak of a “faulty count” and accuse the OFB of not having processed all the signs of presence .

“All the clues transmitted have been analyzed and taken into account, but the genetic analyzes are done with a year lag” because they require a longer processing time, replies Loïc Obled.

The gray wolf is protected in the European Union under the Bern Convention of 1979. But shots are provided as a derogation, as a last resort, to protect the herds.

The maximum number of individuals that can be killed in 2022 will be 174 individuals, compared to 118 initially, with a maximum cap of 19% of the population. 29 wolves have already been “counted” this year, according to the prefect.

Other measures are planned to limit the attacks: financing of guard dogs, electrified parks, guarding by shepherds. Compensation for breeders is provided for in the event of an attack.

This resulted “for the first time, (on) a drop in predation in France both in number of attacks and predated animals”, indicates the prefectural press release.

“An additional financial envelope will make it possible to improve the quality of the equipment, and therefore the effectiveness of the defense shots of the herds”, with “particular attention (…) to the individual situations of the breeders undergoing strong predation”, specifies the press release .

The agricultural federations ask for “breeders subject to the risk of predation the right to defend their herds by defensive fire”, considering that the wolf is no longer an endangered species.

For the Ferus association, on the other hand, killing wolves is not the solution. “A study by the OFB shows that the effectiveness of the shots has not been demonstrated,” Patrick Leyrissoux, vice-president of Ferus, told AFP. “It destabilizes the packs, we end up with a lot of isolated wolves who fall back on domestic prey”, rather than hunting game in packs, he argues.