The french government will soon decide whether or not to increase from 36 to 42 the number of grey wolf (Canis lupus) authorized to be culled in response to depredation pressure on livestock. This raises heated debates between environmentalists, farming organizations and the scientific community.
Meanwhile, almost no simple, accessible and efficient method to prevent wolf depredation on livestock has been offered to livestock owner. Only few studies have focused on wolves’ behavioral response to low-cost and non-lethal livestock protection methods. Thus, we would like to conduct a short-term research project in order to study accessible, low-cost and easily implementable livestock protection systems, based on a real understanding of wolves' predatory behavior.
This research project will be carried out within the french association Lupus Laetus, which has as main activity rehabilitation of wolves and bears in Russia, and research on Russian and Finnish large carnivores.
Our first objective is to test the neophobic reaction, i.e. fear of novelty, that some new and low-cost elements (such as aluminum objects) can evoke to wild wolves. Wild canid predators seem inherently wary, and might thus be more inclined to display strong avoidance or withdrawal from novel objects placed in their natural environment. Low-cost and easily implementable stimuli have been scarcely tested, and little is known about wolves’ behavioural response to them.
Our second objective is to test the effectiveness of a shock collar prototype to train wolves not to attack livestock. Negative stimuli, such as electric shocks, can teach predators to avoid certain areas or certain types of prey through a so-colled "aversive conditioning" process. The collar prototype imagined by Vladimir Bologov, Russian wolf expert, and developed by Lupus Laetus, is based on the same theoretical basis as previous shock collars, although the collar is now fitted to the domestic animal to be protected. These tests will be conducted on wild and captive wolves.
Fieldwork will primarily be carried out in Tver region, Russia. Our local partner for field research is the wolf rehabilitation center located in Bubonitsy village, who will provide facilities and wolf subjects for experimental work. In addition, we will conduct fieldwork in Northern Karelia, Finland, where the association Lupus Laetus is currently conducting field investigations on the ecology of two wolf packs. We would also like to carry out captive experiments in a European wolf park, which still needs to be defined.
The outcomes and results of this project will be communicated to the scientific community, but also to local stakeholders involved in wolf depredation problems. Our aim is to publish scientific and popular articles, as well as guidelines for the implementation of livestock protection systems. We wish to make the results of my research directly available to local rural communities in various countries (e.g. France, Italy, Portugal, etc.)
Who am I ?
I am fond of Nature, and about to complete a "Forest and Nature Conservation" MSc programme (from which I will soon graduate). I am about to finish an internship within the association Lupus Laetus on livestock protection systems. The amazing experience I had in the Finnish and Russian taïga has further stimulated my commitment to resolving human-wolf conflicts. I thus decided to continue working with Lupus Laetus as a volunteer.