GENEVA, Switzerland — Using sheep to alert shepherds of an imminent wolf attack by text message might sound fanciful, but testing is already under way in Switzerland where the predator appears to be back.
“It’s the first time that such a system has been tried outdoors,” said biologist Jean-Marc Landry, who took part in testing on a Swiss meadow this week.
In the trial, reported by the country’s news agency ATS, around 10 sheep were each equipped with a heart monitor before being targeted by a pair of Wolfdogs — both of which were muzzled.
During the experiment, the change in the flock’s heartbeat was found to be significant enough to imagine a system whereby the sheep could be fitted with a collar that releases a repellant to drive the wolf away, while also sending an SMS to the shepherd.
The device is aimed at owners of small flocks who lack the funds to keep a sheepdog, Landry said, adding that it could also be used in tourist areas where guard dogs are not popular.
A prototype collar is expected in the autumn and testing is planned in Switzerland and France in 2013. Other countries including Norway are said to be interested.
The issue of wolves is a divisive one in Switzerland where the animals appear to be back after a 100-year absence.
On July 27 a wolf killed two sheep in St Gall, the first such attack in the eastern canton.
Public domain image from the Aberdeen Bestiary via Wikimedia Commons