Wolves are a recurring problem in Italy. Photo: Penny Bradfield
Rome: Italian farmers are illegally shooting wolves and dumping them in towns and villages as a graphic public protest against the death of their livestock, according to newspaper reports.
The wolf was pushed to the verge of extinction in Italy by the 1970s, when the population dipped to just 100 individuals, but since then a ban on shooting, trapping and poisoning means numbers are now estimated at around 1000.
In Tuscany, reports say at least eight wolves have been illegally shot in the past two months, while another was apparently strangled to death after being caught in an illegal snare.
Carcasses have been dumped prominently in villages or by roadsides in what some believe is an anonymous protest intended to shock.
One wolf was left in a piazza in the Tuscan village of Scansano, while the corpse of a two-year-old female wolf was left by the side of a road leading to the town of Saturnia in the same region, a few days before Christmas.
Farmers say they are having their livelihoods ruined by regular wolf raids.
‘‘Wolves attacked my animals three times in December,’’ said Franco Mattei, a sheep farmer.
‘‘The first time, I came across a sheep which had been disembowelled. Another two had just disappeared. On the third occasion I killed the wolf - it was the day before New Year’s Eve,’’ he said.
The killing of wolves by farmers has been strongly condemned by environmental groups.
‘‘The discovery of these carcasses should seriously concern all those tasked with managing and protecting the wildlife heritage of our country,’’ said Dante Caserta, from the Italian branch of the World Wide Fund for Nature.
The wolf was protected by European Union and Italian legislation and killing them shows ‘‘contempt’’ for the law, he added.