For the first time in 40 years brown bears could not be detected in the northern Limestone Alps (Kalkalpen). Therewith the last bear born in Austria “Moritz” has disappeared from the domestic population. Currently, approx. 5-8 male bears are still present in the state of Carinthia.
The wolf has been “locally extinct” for more than a hundred years. However, single individuals have been returning over the last couple of years. From time to time wolves migrate from Italy, Switzerland, Slovenia and Slovakia to Austria. Within the next years it will become apparent, if they will manage to permanently establish themselves.
In 2011 several Swiss Lynx’s were reintroduced to the “Nationalpark Kalkalpen” in Upper Austria.
A national legislative regulation does not exist, as each federal state implements its own hunting- and conservation act. The public officers from the federal states work together within a panel to coordinate measures for the bear, lynx and wolf.
Currently a management plan only exists for the brown bear. Its two main goals are the facilitation of a conflict free coexistence between humans and bears and the interlinking of the existing bear populations. The handling of problem bears is another central measure within the plan.
Due to the increasing presence of wolves over the last years and the livestock damage they have caused, a management plan for handling the wolf is developed at the moment. Particularly herd protection measures and compensation payments are a central measure within the plan. Moreover, a uniform monitoring is recommended. Presently all federal states collect wolf monitoring data separately in their region.
Compensation payments are regulated independently in each state. In a few cases, e.g. in Carinthia, a fond was established for these payments. However, in most states a liability insurance from the respective hunting association covers the damage.
Farms in Austria traditionally have a small scale structure. Nevertheless, the amount of small scale farms is decreasing, while larger farms are increasing. Sheep and goats are mostly only kept as a secondary income or as a hobby. Correspondingly, the small livestock herds are also very small. Similar to Switzerland, the sheep- and goat-herds support the landscapes maintenance in mountainous regions, where they spend the summer months. Since these herds are not protected, incidents sporadically occur. Particularly in Tyrol and Carinthia several losses have been registered, while only few livestock have been killed in the other federal states. Without proper herd protection and clearly regulated compensation payments, many small sheep and goat farmers are possibly going to give up their animals.
Similar to other countries in which the wolf has been absent for a long time period, most sheep- and goat-herds graze unprotected. Traditional herd protection measures have been lost. A planned national information center for herd protection will test the applicability of different herd protection measures on a number of model regions. However, it is still unclear to what extent farmers will be financially supported to implement herd protection. Especially in alpine regions the farmers are still skeptical about herd protection, as their herds are very small and the necessary financial support is still missing. Actually the national association for sheep and goat breeding is working on a consulting platform "Beratungsstelle für Herdenschutz " for the sheep and goat-owners.