Swiss sheep given scented collars to help stop wolf attacks
With the number of wolf attacks in Switzerland on the rise, a group of experts have come up with a strange and quite fragrant solution to the problem. Two scientists, with the full backing of federal authorities, have been attaching wolf-scented collars to sheep, to see if the smell makes the real wolves leave them alone.
Wolf attacks in Switzerland on the rise
According to a report published by SRF, the trial comes at a difficult time for farmers in the Swiss mountains. Since the start of this year, 17 sheep have already been killed by wolves in Canton Graubünden, representing a huge financial loss for many herders. Farmers have also been forced to cordon off pastureland because of wolf-related activity, and many more have called for licences to shoot wolves should they threaten livestock - an idea still being debated by the government.
However, in what would be a more humane solution, experts Federico Tettamanti and Davide Staedler have come up with a special collar that aims to try and deter wolves from attacking. Staedler told the national broadcaster that the collar comes laced with an artificial perfume that contains wolf pheromones. The price? 25 francs per collar.
Pheremone-coated collars designed to deter wolves
The theory is that if the wolves smell another wolf around the sheep, they will choose to avoid the flock. This was confirmed by a test in a zoo in Austria, where it was shown that wolves tend to avoid meat if it is coated with wolf pheromones.
“Wolves use pheromones to mark their territory, just like other animals…We take these scents and put them in the box. The animal wears the collar with the wolf pheromones, so that it always has this protection around it”, Tettamanti noted. He added that the sheep do not feel stressed by the scent of wolves around their necks.
Swiss sheep collar trial proves to be an initial success
With the success of the project in the zoo, and with backing from the Swiss government and Canton Graubünden, the two are testing the collars on 657 animals across several Swiss cantons. Several weeks in, only one of the animals wearing the collars has been attacked. Speaking to SRF, local farmer Marko Maitz said that he was relieved by the initial success, as he can now use pastureland that was previously out of bounds due to wolf activity.
However, the farmer said that while he hopes that the collars work, “we shouldn’t jump to conclusions.” Speaking to SRF, Zoology professor from the University of Sassari Marco Apolloni said that “the long-term effect on the wolves has yet to be researched”, but if it does work, it will be an ideal way to close the debate on wolf activity in the alpine nation.