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Bundestag committee debates wolves' protected status

Rebecca Staudenmaier with dpa
April 18, 2018

In the years since wolves returned to Germany, they've multiplied quickly — bringing headaches for farmers. MPs and experts agree that more should be done to protect livestock, but they're split on the issue of hunting.

Image: picture-alliance/dpa/I. Wagner

In an effort to ease tensions between conservationists and livestock farmers, the German parliament's Environment Committee debated the issue of rising wolf populations on Wednesday.

Germans and wolves

Four parties have submitted proposals on the issue, all of them calling for better protections for livestock and farmers, but they parted ways in how to best achieve that goal.

Read moreGermans divided over return of the wolves

The Greens submitted a proposal calling for wolves to be resettled and for better training for herd guard dogs.

The business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP) and the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) each proposed allowing wolves to be hunted as a solution. The Left party suggested assessing the impact on wolves if they were allowed to be hunted.

The AfD also put forth a project to determine if certain animals are really wolves or if they're mixed breeds that have resulted from mating with domesticated dogs. If they're found to be wolf-dog hybrids, they lose their protected status.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's government also agreed to ask the EU to re-examine the protected status of wolves in their coalition agreement.

Read moreManaging wolves in Germany: A toothy job for tough ladies

'The wolf is not at fault'

Experts invited to address the committee were likewise split in their views of how to tackle the problem, as well as how many wolves there actually are in Germany.

The figures from the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation showed that in 2017, there were 150-160 adult wolves in Germany.

During Wednesday's committee debate, however, the National Farmer's Union and others put the number closer to 1,000 for the total population. Both the National Farmer's Union and the German Hunting Association called for "wolf management" to control the numbers.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel holds a stuffed wolf
Merkel's new government agreed to push the issue of wolf populations in BrusselsImage: Getty Images/AFP/T. Kienzle

Read moreWolf cub hybrids face the chopping block in Germany

Ilke Reinhardt from the LUPUS Institute for Wolf Monitoring and Research in Germany argued that killing the wolves doesn't solve the problem of livestock losses, and asked MPs to take note of successful herd protection strategies in Italy, Poland and Spain.

Although the fear of a wolf attack is "intolerable," Andreas Schenk of the Federal Association for Professional Sheep Farmers said the industry has been in decline for some time.

"The wolf is not at fault for the decline of sheep farmers. The responsibility lies with politics and society," Schenk told the committee.

He called for the government to pay farmers a premium for grazing animals, which could cost up to €40 million ($49.6 million) per year.

Wolves returned to Germany in 2000, having previously been hunted to extinction in the country, and have rapidly increased their numbers in the 18 years since. Their return, however, has led to problems with farmers and concerns that their numbers could go unchecked without intervention.

In 2016, over 1,000 farm animals were either killed by wolves or wounded in an attack.

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Hunters in Berlin