The problem of coexistence between wolf and rancher is far from resolved. Last week the image of a dead wolf tied to the spare wheel of an SUV burned social networks with criticism about the treatment that It is given to these animals. It happened in Asturias and was shot down by agents authorized by the regional government. The reproaches rained down from the animal world and from the agents of the natural environment of the Autonomous Community. The wolf is a species that can be hunted above the Duero and, however, is protected below that border.
In this scenario of confrontation between the rancher and the wolf, the Junta de Castilla y León has proposed to the agricultural organizations the possibility that they can shoot these animals in the regions located south of the Duero. It is there where the species is causing the greatest damage to the livestock and is protected, although subjected to controls. Only those who have weapons and hunting permits can obtain authorization, and provided preventive protection measures have been taken and they have not taken effect. The shots would be, in principle, to scare them away, although if the animal persists, it could be hunted.
In Castilla y León canine attacks have increased by 72% in the first six months of 2018 compared to the same period last year, from 890 to 1,449, according to data from the regional executive. Most of the damage occurred in the provinces of Ávila and Segovia, places where the wolf has appeared after decades of absence. The general director of Medio Natural, José Ángel Arranz, explains that they are the places with the greatest density of cattle in extensive, with densities in the dehesas between eight and 10 times higher than in the north of the Duero. In this way, "there are herds that feed almost only on cattle, in the north there is less density and they eat more roe and wild boar". Thus, 15% of the population causes 75% of the damage.
The proposal arrives after the Castilian-Leonese Executive suspended its wolf management plan, which allowed hunting 143 animals north of the Duero, where it can be captured. A sentence of the Superior Court of Justice of Castilla y León annulled the program supporting the theses of the conservationists of Ascel who had denounced it.
Arranz clarifies that "it is about implementing a system similar to the one used in the south of France, in places with a level of attacks similar to the one we face." At present, the Board organizes selective controls of the species in charge of technicians to eliminate certain specimens that kill cattle repeatedly.
For the moment, the regional executive has launched the proposal and is analyzing the interest of the agricultural associations. "We have met with the organizations and for them to transfer their allegations," says Arranz. The idea came after a visit of the European Commission to the south of France where the system is applied. The president of the Union of Small Farmers and Cattle Ranchers (UPA) in Castilla y León, Aurelio González, sees on the one hand that the measure is positive because it will allow them to defend their way of life. But, on the other hand, he believes that it is "ineffective" for the high population of wolves that exist and warns: "It must be the Administration that fixes the problem since it is the one that has allowed the high proliferation of wild fauna. They have gotten out of hand. " Ignacio Martínez, member of the Association for the conservation of the Iberian wolf Ascel qualifies the "smoke screen" proposal. In his opinion, "it demonstrates the total failure of a government that does not know what to do except launch crazy proposals that have no legal requirements."
In search of the complicated balance of coexistence, there are farmers who defend the wolf, like Leandro Valle. Together with his three brothers he exploits a cabin of 1,000 sheep in the region of Las Merindades, in the valley of Valdivielso (Burgos), which are loose on a large farm, with more than 30,000 hectares. "It may be shocking, but we have found that by taking preventive measures, attacks are over and we have economic benefits," he says proudly. At his side, three mastiffs doze in the meadow surrounded by fog, while one of his brothers shepherds cattle. "My father killed the sheep and we thought what to do," he says. First they recovered the figure of the shepherd and then the dog mastiff "that is fundamental".
But they lack the protection of the Administration. "You need an extensive livestock law, which regulates the sector and dogs hounds, which are now pets," he asks. Another important issue for this type of vital livestock to preserve the environment does not disappear is to "professionalize the sector and dignify the work of the pastor, who is historically considered an illiterate." Valle has harsh words for some of his colleagues: "It is outrageous how they have their animals, without taking care," he says. The Burgos participates with other farmers in the Vivir con Lobos program developed by Ecologists in Action and directed by Isabel Leiva. "We seek to make visible the possibility of the coexistence of livestock cabins with the wolf and promote it", he describes.
The president of UPA replies that it is very easy to talk about preventive measures for cattle that graze freely in the bush. "Above all," he adds, "if they are areas like Ávila where we had been without predators for 100 years." People are not used to it and you can not change the way you work from night to morning. "
Most of the wolves of Spain are distributed in the north of the peninsula: Asturias, Castilla y León, Galicia and Cantabria, which account for 90% of the controversial species. The core of the population is concentrated in Castilla y León: 50% of the wolves of the Iberian Peninsula and 60% of the Spanish territory. The data of the Ministry of Ecological Transition indicate that in Spain there are 300 groups of wolves in Spain. More complicated is to determine the number of specimens, because the size of the flocks is very variable by breeding, dispersion or mortality, among other factors.
The species is only protected below the border of the Duero. In the north of this line, where it is a hunting species, its management is not uniform. You can hunt in Galicia, Cantabria and Castilla y León. In Asturias, however, it does not have this consideration, although it is subject to controls by the Administration. In Portugal it is strictly protected.
In Spain, two national wolf censuses have been carried out so far with a difference of 26 years, one in 1986-1988 and another in 2012-2014, both promoted, coordinated and financed by the ministry. In view of these data we can say that the species is not spreading through Spain, because in the first it was spoken of 294 groups spread over 100,000 kilometers and the second of 297 groups in 91,000 kilometers.