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The motion from Senator René Imoberdorf of the centrist Christian Democrats failed by 26 to 17 votes, meaning it will not continue to the House of Representatives, and wolves will continue to be a protected species in Switzerland. Imoberdorf hails from canton Valais, which has had ongoing issues with wolves threatening livestock herds.
If the motion had passed in both houses of parliament, wolves would have lost their protected status and Switzerland would have had to withdraw as a signatory to the Bern Convention on animal protection.
Wolves’ protected status has been an ongoing topic of debate in Switzerland over the past several years. Those against the latest parliamentary motion saw the question of ending the species’ protection status as a non-starter, with Robert Cramer of the Green Party calling the continued wolf debates “disproportionate and unreasonable”.
Those arguing for the motion insisted that the wolf’s comeback in Switzerland needed to be kept in check for the sake of alpine farmers; they appealed for a rational instead of an emotional debate.
“Everyone can live with predators as long as they’re just posters on the wall,” said Imoberdorf’s fellow Christian Democratic senator Beat Rieder, also from canton Valais.
Rieder argued that other western European countries are taking measures to keep wolf populations under control, so Switzerland should follow suit.
Measures already taken
Parliament recently agreed to a loosening of wolves’ protected status wherein young wolves travelling in a pack could be shot under certain conditions, especially if they are regularly seen near inhabited areas. Also, Environment Minister Doris Leuthard said that the cabinet plans to submit revisions to Switzerland’s hunting laws this summer.
In 2012, the cabinet decided that certain wolves could be shot if major damage to livestock herds had occurred, despite farmers taking all possible protection measures. Revisions to the hunting law made in 2013 made it possible for farmers to receive financial compensation for defensive measures taken against wolves, such as fencing or alert systems.