The Beskydy Mountains along the Czech-Slovak border, are attracting attention again this summer and not just as a vacation hot spot. The newly settled wolf population is preying on sheep and goats and making locals nervous.
Wolves in Central Europe, as in most parts of the world, are endangered. For approximately seventy years prior to 1994 there were no wolves recorded in the Czech Lands. But since 1994, shortly after the break-up of Czechoslovakia, small packs of wolves have started creeping west across the newly created Czech-Slovak border into the Czech Carpathians.
A specific count of the number of Czech wolves is not available; there are between 150 and 350 in all of the Western Carpathians most of which lie in Slovakia. The wolves in the Beskydy are a Carpathian species, thus historically belong to the region; however they were easily forgotten during their long absence.
Since 2000 there have been nearly one hundred farm animals injured or killed by predators, most cases are presumed to be by wolves. One hundred sounds like a small number, if you visualize mountain ranges covered with grazing sheep. However the Beskydy make up a relatively small region and the farms are quite small as well, with just over 2000 sheep total in the region.
In this case you may ask, with such a small sheep population, how is it that so many sheep are being attacked by wolves, with the most recent case coming just a couple of days ago when three sheep and two goats were massacred. The answer is simple - lack of protection. One of the challenges over the past ten years has been educating farmers about how to protect their sheep, as the younger generation of farmers in the Beskydy previously never faced the problem. Education includes encouraging the use of sheep dogs and fencing, as well as creating a channel for communication between farmers and environementalists.
Finding such channels is no doubt the key to protecting wolves and sheep alike. People on both sides have strong emotional ties to their role and have invested time and energy, whether tending sheep or protecting wolves. In the end the hope is of course that wolves and sheep can live together, perhaps not like the lamb and lion, but with some help from humans, so they can each fulfill their ecological role.
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