ERRIGOITI (SPAIN) – Tension between environmentalists and farmers in Spain is on the rise following a ban on wolf hunting in the rural north. The agriculturists believe that the decision will affect their livestock.
The Environment Ministry decided last Thursday to extend the protection for the Iberian wolf in the south to the north of the Douro river, where controlled hunting was allowed earlier.
“We think it’s a great success,” said Nerea Larrabe, who runs the Basondo animal refuge in the Basque region, where hunting will soon be prohibited.
“It’s legislating to make sure an important species from our environment doesn’t disappear,” she said.
The wolf population in the country has rebounded since the 1960s from a few hundred to around 1,500-2,000 and more than 90% of the population is found in the north.
Every year, they kill around 15,000 farm animals in the country, as per figures released by the agricultural association COAG.
“There’s the conflict,” said Peru Lopez de Munain, a livestock vet in Errigoiti. “If wolves just killed deer, wild boar and rabbits it would be fine, there would be no problem.”
In some regions, farmers have built high-fenced pens to protect animals. But Lopez de Munain thinks the Basque Country’s extensive herding, where sheep are allowed to graze freely over large stretches, cannot be allowed as there is a resurgent wolf population.
Sharing the same opinion is hunter and herder Isaac Ruiz Olazabal owning land in the Karrantza valley.
Two of his animals were ripped to shreds by wolves.
“Wolves and livestock can’t be together,” he said. “They’re going to have to turn this story around, otherwise many of us farmers are going to disappear.”