In the Austrian-Slovenian border region, livestock farmers say there’s been a dramatic increase in the number of animals killed by wolves.
Last year, in the Carinthia region, four times more farm animals were killed by the predator than in the previous year.
Farmers are entitled to government compensation. The problem is they have to be able to prove the killer was a wolf.
The Slovenian farmer Matija Juvan received only a small part of the designated compensation because the identification tags on his sheep were lost during the killing.
“I only got paid the damage for four of the 17 killed sheep,” he said.
No proof of a wolf kill means no money, Slovenia’s government confirmed. This is despite the fact that the number of missing but uncompensated animals in Matija’s municipality recently tripled.
“The sheep are not dead immediately,” explained Matija, “they have a lot of pain. It’s a complex problem, for me it’s not just about the money.”
It’s legal to shoot wolves in Slovenia and neighbouring Austria, and sometimes farmers use a carcass of a dead animal to attract predators.
Hunters are particularly eager to target hybrids, a cross between dogs and wolves, as they are more daring and will even enter villages during the day.
But for the World Wildlife Fund, there is an upside to wolves. The nature conservation organisation says wolves protect forests from being destroyed by deer.
The forestry industry would save hundreds of millions of euros in damages by tolerating the predator.
“The young trees often cannot grow up at all as they are eaten by game (including deer) beforehand,” explains Christian Pichler of WWF Austria, “and the wolf would help here in reducing the high number of game.”
However, that doesn’t really help farmers like Matija Juvan.
He told Euronews his passion for the hard work in the alpine terrain is dwindling in the face of wolf attacks.