Livestock protection is part of best practices in all regions where wolves have survived until today. This is because wolves do not distinguish between wild and domestic prey animals. In order to feed, wolves kill animals that they can easily overwhelm. Compared to wild ungulates, small livestock like sheep or goats are easy prey as long as they are not protected.
In many European countries with wolf occurrences, attacks on livestock are the main reason for human-wildlife conflicts. This conflict is as old as livestock keeping itself, and so are many protection measures. Protecting livestock is the only measure to permanently keep conflicts at a low level. Shooting of individual wolves is only a short term solution.
In areas where wolves have survived until today, livestock is protected by herders and livestock protection dogs and kept in pens overnight like in former times. The situation is different in areas where the wolf had been completely exterminated. Here, it was possible to broadly give up livestock protection measures, which clearly made work easier for animal keepers. As the wolves return to their historic ranges, conflicts between wolves and livestock re-emerge. The way livestock is kept has to be re-adapted to the presence of wolves. In some cases, this means an increased workload for animal keepers, for example when better but more laborious fencing systems are used. In case livestock protection dogs are used, it is necessary to look after and care for them on a daily basis.
By now, almost all federal states have established wolf management plans that include support for animal keepers through financial compensation of livestock damage and funding of preventive measures. The measures focus on keepers of sheep and goats, as these animals are particularly vulnerable to wolf attacks. Therefore, minimum protection measures were made compulsory in many federal states. Compliance with these regulations is a precondition for receiving potential compensatory payments.
Electrified fences have proved to be particularly efficient for protecting livestock. As wolves tend to dig under instead of jumping fences, it is particularly important that the lowest strand has a maximum distance of 20 cm form the ground. In order to keep electrical voltage in the strands high, the fence needs to be thoroughly grounded. Electrical fences should have a height of 120 cm. As the prevalent sheep nettings usually only have a height of 105 cm to 108 cm, they can be heightened with an additional broad strand mounted on top.
For larger herds, the combination of electrified fences and livestock protection dogs has proven successful. These specific dog breeds protect the herds from intruders. You can find further information on livestock protection measures on the federal state websites and in the respective management plans. Experiences with livestock protection measures and recommendations derived from this have been published in the BfN monograph “Empfehlungen zum Schutz von Weidetieren und Gehegewild vor dem Wolf” (Recommendations for the protection of livestock and enclosed game animals from the wolf, in German). The publication can be downloaded here:
In the following sections, different aspects regarding livestock protection, damage assessment, preventive and compensational payments and development of damages caused by wolves are explained on the basis of data from all over Germany. The report on damages caused by wolves, preventive and compensatory payments in Germany includes the two latter aspects and can be downloaded completely (in German) by clicking on “more”.