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Old 22-09-2005, 17:29   #41
Tonje
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Hello again,

This is very interesting! Keep the ideas coming!

As for guard dogs, that has been tried here in Norway in a project that ran for 3 years or so (as far as I remember). Per Olav refers to a rather extensive report (which I admittedly have not read.. 116 pages.. a bit daunting). One should probably take this official report as the formal documentation of the testing. I have however read several summaries, both from the "dog side" and from the "farmer side" - and these summaries do differ a bit regarding the success rate. It all depends on what one regards as success.

The guard dog project was primarily a test for protection of sheep against attacks from brown bear. It was run in Lierne where there are a relatively high number of brown bears that had a tendency to attack sheep. Like the wolves, the bears would go into an extensive "kill and maim orgie" when coming across "flocks"/collections of these sheep that are so terribly easy prey, they would take out them all! Also wolverines have displayed this behavior when the prey is easy and the number in excess. (And perhaps we humans are a bit like that too - when faced with a valuable resource easy to get at and present in excessive amounts..)

The outcome of the project was a bit varied. As far as I remember, a couple of the dogs started to feed themselves - on sheep (! Probably poor basic training). When kept in herds together with the guard dogs (remember this type of sheep has a severely reduced herding instinct), the sheep tended to get very stressed and lost weight. The same also happens when they are herded by shepherds between grazing areas and holding pens for the night - they get stressed and loose weight.

The guard dogs did reduce bear attacks, when the sheep were kept fenced in and herded. When not herded, the sheep spread out and the guard dogs lost their efficiency because of course they could not be several places at once. There was also concern about having the guard dogs roaming free together with the sheep with respect to public safety. In Norway anyone is allowed to walk anywhere, land owners can not deny you right of access so there are hikers, tourists, hunters, people with dogs etc walking around in the same regions. Apparently some of the guard dogs took their job seriously and could be "unpleasant" to people walking by, especially if they had dogs.

Another use of the guard dogs was to take them to areas which had been recently attacked, they were used to stop further attacks from the bear in the area. This was also relatively efficient.

In conclusion guard dogs could be efficient against brown bears (and thought to be efficient against wolves also) but not when the sheep are kept as they are here in Norway. I believe we are the only country that just let the sheep go loose without supervision of any kind and where the public is actually required to help keep the sheep safe! It is very rare to have sheep fenced in - there are not enough pastures for that - and it is of course much cheaper to just let the sheep wander off and fend for themselves in the mountains and forests. Then they are collected in autumn and taken back to the farms and kept indoors during the winter. Sweden forinstance, who has managed to protect their wolves - also there to massive protests - have not have had to contend with that way of sheep farming.

There has also been done tests with fencing for those cases where there are pastures to graze the sheep. I don't know if there are several types of wolf safe fences, but here in Norway the ones tested did not keep the wolves out. Farmers were also told to "hang objects" in the fences and
surrounding trees (like scarecrows for birds). However the only way for such new objects to be effective, they have to be changed around/ exchanged every few days otherwise they loose their novelty and the wolves ignore them. The farmers say that is too much work in the long run. Also there is a side effect that the wolves are actually trained in overcoming fear of new things in their environment faster!

Some effort has also been done in checking out other sheep breeds. The sheep breed used here is a type that is extremely disease resistant, extremely cheap to feed during winter, has a high yield of meat compared to feed and quality of feed put in, and the lack of herding instinct means they can thrive on poor grazing grounds as they spread out in their search for food. Other sheep breeds can not measure up to those requirements. There is a very primitive sheep breed that actually can defend itself against wolves. They have horns and a strong herding instinct. When faced with danger they bunch together in a circle with the lambs in the middle, just like the musk ox does. In addition they are very swift and nimble and very hardy. High hopes were attached to this breed. However they do not yield enough meat. In addition they are very shy creatures, more wild than tame, and therefore difficult to handle. Just collecting them in the autumn would be near impossible. (How I know this? I used to subscribe to the Farmer Union's magazine that reported agricultural research results, gave recommendations, discussed legislations and prices etc.)

The whole issue here is actually economy. Norway is a high cost country and agriculture is heavily subsidized otherwise the price of agricultural products would be absurdly high (this is one of the reasons Norway isn't a member of the European Union, the subzidation would be severely limited compared to what it is today). Still most of the Norwegian public is very much against this, so the farmers have to meet hard demands to "profit" and quality. Sheep farming is marginal, any loss of slaughter weight and the farmer goes broke. Their economy depends on the sheep being so cheap to keep.

Why we have agriculture at all? Originally because in case of a war situation one wants Norway to be selfsustained in food production. Never mind that I don't think Norway could do that. Modern agriculture is heavily dependent of eg. oil to run the machines, artificial fertilizer because the grain types that have high yield also require much nourishment and supplemented nourishment for the cows, not to talk about the transport necessary. People generally don't know how deep this dependance is. We have ecological agriculture here, no artificial ingredients in anything. To my amusement, milk is defined "ecological" when produced from cows that have max 30 % pellets (industrial produced) in their diet, not 0 %. Our cows can not live on pure ecological feed - they must be supplemented with the pellets or they die from malnourishment! That is what requirements to an enormous milk production pr animal does to an organism. Sorry - a digression!

So to protect the wolf, Norway will have to do radical changes in sheep farming. This means changing the legislations and changing the economical subsidy rules. There would be massive protests - and a lot of schooling for the farmers - their previous knowledge would be worthless - and of course that will be hard to take for many of them. There are some ideas for alternative sheep farming and other income resources for the farmers, i.e. "wolf safaries" and game hunting (we have tons of moose and even license hunting for wolf if there were enough of them) for tourists. Another idea is having the Ministry of Environment paying sheep farmers with shepherds (and other breeds of sheep) for "landscape conservation". The sheep have had an important job in keeping the landscape open by eating brush and keeping the forest tracks and meadows open. The forest reclaims everything very quickly
when the sheep are not there. By focusing away from maximum yield of meat to lowest possible price, sheep farming could still be a way of making a living.

Much more attention should be paid to the habituation problem. Norway is supposedly lots of nature and wilderness, but actually only 5 % of Southern Norway is true wilderness. Everywhere else there are people, albeit spread out but they do live there. "Mock hunts" a couple of times each year, more efficient "wolf scary devises" etc. Also people should be educated in what to expect before the wolves arrive in their region. Information in beforehand is essential - and no covering up of the more unfortunate (from a human point of view) sides of the wolf. Here people had to find out for themselves that eg wolves kill dogs, and that there is such a thing as habituation. In the beginning there was too much "wolf romantism" - the beautiful, intelligent noble carnivore with a heart warming family life! Wolves are wolves and should be allowed to be wolves without ascribing them "Disney properties". The people who experienced loosing their dogs, the little girl who was waiting for the school bus in the country side and discovered there was a wolf waiting there too (! No, she wasn't harmed - but it scared the people in the area), the farmers who have all their sheep wiped out the 3rd year in a row - these are things that are not very romantic, only upsetting, and worst of all, could be avoided if people had known better in beforehand.

Norway is one of the richest countries in the world, this is well within the country's capacity. There are also some other issues concerning the wolves, but these are of much lesser concern than the sheep and the habituation problems.

Regards Tonje
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Old 06-12-2005, 02:48   #42
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Default Please help the norwegian wolves

Dear Friends,
> I have just read and signed the petition:
> Protect the Wolves of Norway
> http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/399085910
> Please help by signing this petition to save the Wolves of Norway. It takes 30 seconds and will really help. Please follow this link:
> The system centralizes signature collection to provide consolidated, useful reports for petition authors and targets. Please forward this email to others you believe share your concern. To view additional petitions, please click here:
> http://www.thePetitionSite.com
> Thank you
>
>
> Total Signatures: 5,140
> The most recent signatures* as of 4:58 PM PST Dec 05, 2005
>
> # 5,140 12/05/05 4:35 PM Sean Noyes, ME, us
> # 5,139 12/05/05 2:48 PM Edith Soltesz, NU, at
> # 5,138 12/05/05 1:28 PM Monica Solheim, NU, no
> # 5,137 12/05/05 11:46 AM Rolf Bjerkøy, NU, no
> # 5,136 12/05/05 11:23 AM Carrie Wolf, HI, us
> # 5,135 12/05/05 10:16 AM Birgitte Lepsøe, NU, no
> # 5,134 12/05/05 7:20 AM CATERINA TREVISAN, NU, it
> # 5,133 12/05/05 6:55 AM Bendik Bakken, NU, no
> # 5,132 12/05/05 6:49 AM Anonymous, NU, no
> # 5,131 12/05/05 2:40 AM Ann Kristin Simonsen, NU, no
> # 5,130 12/05/05 2:08 AM Kayla May, CA, us
> # 5,129 12/05/05 1:41 AM Lyn Hawkey, NA, gb
> # 5,128 12/04/05 11:45 PM Jan Guttulsrud, NU, no
> # 5,127 12/04/05 5:46 PM Hege Næss, NU, no
> # 5,126 12/04/05 5:42 PM Therese Simonsen Rye, NA, no
> # 5,125 12/04/05 1:34 PM Elin Hansen, NU, no
> # 5,124 12/04/05 12:48 PM Line Nordheim, NA, no
> # 5,123 12/04/05 12:37 PM Glen Miller, PA, us
> # 5,122 12/04/05 12:35 PM Linda Dahlum, NA, no
> # 5,121 12/04/05 12:03 PM Kelly Chatman, OH, us
> # 5,120 12/04/05 11:23 AM Renate Skophamar, NA, no
> # 5,119 12/04/05 11:02 AM Heather Deantonio, HI, us
> # 5,118 12/04/05 9:52 AM Einar Bendiktsen, NU, no
> # 5,117 12/04/05 9:38 AM Anonymous, IN, us
> # 5,116 12/04/05 7:29 AM Maxine Ross, NU, gb
>
> To add your name to this petition go to:
>
> http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/399085910
>
> *Signers may choose to hide their identity to the public. Such names will appear as "Anonymous" on the PetitionSite.com and advocacy emails similar to this. (The signature number above may not match the number assigned to your signature on the first page of the petition.) To view additional petitions, please click here:
> http://www.thePetitionSite.com
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