The Flemish minister for nature, Zuhal Demir (N-VA) is to amend the provisions of the government’s nature decree to allow more protection for the region’s wolves.
Last summer she-wolf Naya gave birth to cubs sired by wolf August, but then she disappeared along with her cubs, and the region’s nature inspectors concluded they had been deliberately killed.
The presence of wolves in Flanders – especially breeding wolves – aroused fear and anger among livestock farmers, and it seems like that was behind the killings.
Now Demir has said she will promote wolves to the highest degree of protection offered by the Flemish nature agencies. The decision was taken to prevent a similar fate befalling the remaining wolves, August and Noëlla.
The most immediate measure is a ban on hunting until June in the military domain of Beverlo, the firing range of Helchteren-Meeuwen and the Pijnven nature reserve.
The next step is to amend the nature decree to include wolves in Annex III of the decree, which lists the animal species that may not be captured or killed, and whose territory is protected from being disturbed during breeding season.
That list currently includes various types of bat, rodents and amphibians, as well as the otter and the European beaver.
The effect, Demir said, would be to offer more of a disincentive to harm the wolves.
“If anything should happen to the wolves, then higher fines can be imposed, as well as a prison term of up to five years, which is twice as much as now,” she said.
On the farmers’ side, sheep farmers have been advised to protect their flocks well. Subsidies for the installation of wolf-proof fencing are made easier to obtain, and the government has money to subsidise the work of volunteers from Natuurpunt and the WWF who help put up the fences.
The hunting community, meanwhile, says it fears the existing hunting ban will allow the numbers of wild boar to grow out of proportion. However Demir responded to point out that the hunters do not have the boar problem under control in any case.
“We need to try to solve that with our own team from the government,” she said.