Hunters or Wolves?
The reintroduction of wolves in France
POLITICSFLORA AND FAUNAFRENCH CUSTOMS AND LOCAL EVENTS
"What would you rather have in our forest ...hunters or wolves? B. posed this question to me yesterday as we surveyed the large gouges of turf created by rampaging sanglier overnight throughout our property. At 8 a.m. the previous morning we had been startled by the first shot of the year...a loud crack that ripped the air apart just above our fence. The hunting season had finally begun. It didn't make sense.We haven't seen a single sign of the sanglier(or wild boar)throughout the summer, even though we walk in the forest every day. Yet in winter they frequently make incursions onto our property, in spite of B.s sterling efforts with fencing. Wherever we walk in winter there are signs of the sangliers' presence, where earth and leaves have been vigorously turned over. On one memorable occasion our path was crossed by a sow with her adorable litter of spotted piglets trailing behind her. But that is rare. I know people fear the fierce boar, but if he is ever to be found lurking in the vicinity of our walks, he keeps himself well hidden. So why, suddenly, are the sanglier very much in evidence once more? Clearly, it is the hunters who have driven them closer to the village.And yet they tell us that we need their presence to protect us. I cursed them vociferously, not for the first time in these past twenty years, while B. set about gathering his tools to mend our fences. It was when he returned a couple of hours later that he posed that question...hunters or wolves? For after all, if wolves were allowed to flourish, then the sanglier would be kept under control by natural predators, and the guns would fall silent. But local opinion is set dead against the reintroduction of wolves, and tales are told in gory detail of how farmers have found their sheep slaughtered by them. Indeed, as we drive up our valley someone has painted in large red letters NON AUX LOUPS all over a pretty stone bridge. Alas the argument over wolves will rage on.
But then, every year in the month of July, the hunters celebrate 'La Fete du Diane.' The goddess of hunting is feted with a feast of sanglier, spit roasted to perfection , preceded by wild boar paté which has been created in local village kitchens. It is a celebration and party to which all villagers are invited, and I cannot deny that it is indeed a 'feast fit for the gods.'
So what was my response to the dilemma that B. posed. Would I prefer hunters or wolves? Why wolves of course. I'd take my chances with wolves any day, and forego that delicious feast.