Wolf defence - how to protect your herd

Effective herd protection thanks to electric fencing

Ein Wolf in freier Wildbahn The return of the wolves
The spread of wolves in the cultivated landscape harbours potential for conflict. As food opportunists, they prey on animals that they can capture most easily. But if the hunger is great enough or the deterrent measures are not intensive enough, they are quite prepared to expend considerable effort to reach their hunting target.

These are mainly livestock such as sheep and goats, but now also young cattle or foals. Herd protection measures are therefore important. While the focus used to be on guarding livestock, today it is also imperative to take into account the intrusion of wolves from the outside when building fences. Wolves are very adaptive and always develop new strategies to overcome enclosures. Pastures should therefore be adequately secured against jumping over, climbing over, slipping through and undermining. Wolf defence experts agree that electric fences are the best means of choice for wolf defence.

An adaptive hunter
Wolves are extremely adaptable and can constantly adapt their hunting techniques to local conditions. Young animals learn from their parents, which means that conditioning can be passed on even beyond one generation.

Basically, it is therefore important to make the potential hunting target (our livestock) as unattractive as possible for the wolf - continuity is also particularly important here: if a wolf loses respect for a protective measure, it is more willing to look for ways to circumvent it. Electric fences should therefore be continuously and at every point under sufficient current.

In principle, wolves specifically look for the prey animal that is easiest to reach - that is why they focus their hunting on sheep and goats, but young horses/foals, calves or older animals are also at risk. It should also not be underestimated that, due to their way of life, wolves will always try to undermine the fence first instead of jumping over it. Furthermore, wolves are quite willing to swim, which is why a body of water alone is no protection.

In addition, the factor of the behaviour of the fenced animals to be protected must also be taken into account: is the fenced area/pen/pasture too small for the size and number of the herd or animals, or is there a danger that the animals will panic when approached by a wolf (or other hunter) and break through the fence due to the lack of space. This means that on the one hand the herd protection measure of the fence is lost and on the other hand additional cost-intensive damage is caused by the destroyed/damaged fence.

The fascinating behaviour and biology of wolves: an insight into their way of life

Wolves are adaptive and social predators that are spreading again in our region after many years of absence, making adapted conflict management necessary. Knowledge of their complex behaviour and unique biology has led to a better understanding of their way of life, making deterrence measures targeted and effective. In these pages we take a look at wolf behaviour and their biology, including their territorial and hunting behaviour, foraging and sensory behaviour, and appropriate herd protection measures.
Territorial behaviour: Wolves are territorial animals that live together in family groups called packs. A pack claims a certain territory, which it defends against other packs. The territory is marked by scent marks, loud howling and ritualised behaviour to deter potential intruders. Unoccupied border areas between territories are used for roaming by lone wolves looking for a mate.

Foraging and hunting behaviour: Wolves are carnivores and usually hunt in packs. The hunting strategy of wolves is based on teamwork and coordination. Animals living alone cannot use this advantage for themselves and are therefore particularly inventive in successfully circumventing herd protection measures for - compared to wild prey - easily accessible farm animals. Wolves use their keen senses, such as the distinct sense of smell and hearing, to detect prey and to sneak up on them silently. When it comes to prey, wolves are extremely adaptable and should it be necessary due to food scarcity, they are quite prepared to avoid unusual offers such as litter or to take aim at larger animals.

Sensory: The wolves' senses are well developed and play a crucial role in their survival. Their highly developed sense of smell enables them to perceive prey, conspecifics and their territory. Wolves also have excellent hearing, which enables them to hear distant sounds and maintain communication within the pack. Their eyesight is not as good as humans, but they can detect movement well and hunt at dusk and at night. In addition, similar to dogs and sheep, they see a different colour spectrum than humans: especially contrasting colours such as blue against white are well perceived by wolves.
Conclusion: By better understanding the wolf's way of life, we can help minimise conflicts between wolves and humans. Effective and adapted herd protection is the focal point at this time, because Isegrim not only causes a lot of anger and damage, but also an emotionally overloaded discussion about what meaningful wolf management could look like. Valuable livestock must be protected in the best possible way to avoid and minimise conflicts with the wolf in the long term.

„The return of wolves to Germany poses a challenge, especially when it comes to promoting a largely conflict-free coexistence between domestic animals and wolves. Good protection is a prerequisite to keep the number of attacks on domestic animals as low as possible in the long term. Commercially available live fences with a recommended height of at least 110 centimetres are very effective protection against wolf attacks. This is because they are a barrier that causes pain to the wolf when one touches it.“

VANESSA LUDWIG – Project manager of the Wolfsregion Lausitz contact offices (Saxony)