Shepherd: between dog and wolf … and tourists

As a 14-year-old, Julien Valet left college … before finding a new path, his path with the flocks, and entering another school, the shepherd’s. “Apart from the fact that in shepherd school we do not learn to deal with predation or mass tourism”, two phenomena that have greatly complicated the daily life of Julien and his wife Aurélie, both shepherds, formerly at ‘Isoard (Alps), now Puy Mary. No courses to understand this new reality, no transfer of know-how even from the elders who have not been confronted with it.
So one has to adapt and deal with it, learn to live with, with the wolf, the guard dogs, the walkers and the trailers who often forget the basic rules of the mountains and the animal kingdom. “There are people who want to pet the sheep or the guard dogs, except that the sheep like the dog do not necessarily want it …”, smiles the young wage earner shepherd for the second season in a row of the sheep pastoral group.from Puy Mary. Breeders leaving a herd of about 568 ewes to the experienced pair from early July to early October.

Get the tourists back on track …

To get these stray or careless two-legged sheep back on track, Julien pulls out his favorite weapon: a smile and, above all, a word. Unstoppable. “As soon as we see a wanderer go off next to the herd with or without a dog, we try to communicate, to explain a few safety rules: keep your dog at your feet, on a leash, do not lift the cane if the watchdog is on way forward … There is a whole generation that has never had contact with the animals “, explained last week to the prefect the shepherd, who thus every day takes up his staff … as a pilgrim to avoid conflicts of use and potential accidents. guard dogs, which formerly in the Alps led him four times in front of the gendarmes.
In this awareness-raising mission, the shepherd and shepherdess of Puy Mary as well as the breeders are helped by the mixed syndicate from the Grand site, but also the state, which provides information panels. Attached to the fences, near the hiking trails in question, they indicate the behavior to be followed and encourage respect for the work of the shepherds. Messages that Julien Valet, however, considers discreet and insufficiently dissuasive:
“We filmed the passengers in front of one of them for 48 hours, and the only person who stopped to read it was a child,” the shepherd laments.

Red lights instead of giving way

“Behavior in the mountains is like on the road, if you never turn on a red light, but give in, there is a greater risk of accidents,” he imagined the prefect, who called the state and joint syndicate for more offensive information, especially in the evening. of a summer season which was to see a very great influx on the ridges and paths of the Cantal massif. Likewise, he would welcome increased support for breeders in the training of their guard dogs, but also the control of these two-legged guardians in sectors where conflicts of use arise. “I agree with your speech, which is both moderate and passionate. The important thing is to move towards peaceful conditions “, added the prefect Castel.
“The goal is not to close the mountain, but to learn to work together, as we do with the mixed union to avoid accidents by reorganizing, for example, a small part of a hiking trail,” the shepherd pleads. , which recognizes the efforts of the Structure.
Because behind the postcard with the ewes framed by their protectors, shepherds in the Pyrenees, Tony Joanny, president of the clergy group, remembered that the effort was neither more nor less than the persistence of a sheep breeder in Cantal. A production that the wolf, which has been installed on Monts du Cantal since 2018, reveled in – just like it decimated the mouflons in the sector – before this collective sheep summer provided an answer to the breeders’ distress.
An answer that has proven itself from the first season of 2021, though the threat of predation can never be completely ruled out. The proof: since the beginning of July, three ewes have been attacked in foggy weather. New attacks that raise the issue of raising the device available to breeders with a notch: simple defensive shots, reinforced or even intervention by the wolf brigade to protect themselves from the predator who has understood “that he has a free McDo here”, image Julien Officer. Measures that the state services will now look at indicated the prefect Castel.

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