The Flemish budget for wolf-proof fencing is expected to be multiplied by ten in the wake of multiple wolf attacks on cattle and livestock.
In 2020, subsidies for such fencing were budgeted at around €75,000. A new subsidy regulation already given preliminary approval will be ten times that amount, reports the Flemish infocentre for agriculture and horticulture (VILT).
Wolf attacks have been making headlines lately, including with the recent deaths of multiple Shetland ponies.
Key actors in the equestrian arts have called for tougher measures, a torchlit protest against wolves was attended by thousands, and there’s been a flood of requests for wolf-proof fencing, which the Agency for Nature and Forests says is crucial in the fight against wolf attacks on livestock.
Under old regulations for wolf-proof fencing, VILT reports, less than half of the costs incurred were reimbursed.
For a 1-hectare plot with a perimeter of 500 metres, the investment costs were estimated at €2,050 and the labour costs for installation at least €1,000.
Annual maintenance takes about 40 hours, which at a labour cost of €16.50 comes to €660. The total cost in year one therefore rises to €3,710, and the old subsidy only covered a maximum of €1,640, or 80 percent of the investment cost.
With a fixed compensation of €4.50 per running metre for the installation and maintenance during the first three years, the government is now trying to close that gap.
The cost price of a wolf-proof fence therefore amounts to between €3,500 and €4,000 per hectare.
Earlier, the Nature and Forest Agency calculated that there are 9,200 vulnerable livestock living in the wolf area, spread over some 2,000 hectares of pastures.
The parcels in eight municipalities where the wolves are most active were given priority for the first three years.
Since its origin, the subsidy programme has been expanded, but demand has risen higher than it can keep pace with.
The total cost of the new subsidy scheme is estimated between €728,000 and €828,000 per year.