Source: Press release Department for the environment and sustainability, Generalitat de Catalunya, in conjunction with PirosLife and EU Life program, 31 October 2018, with additions based on interviews with one of the shepherds involved.
After five months in the high pastures the 36 sheep farms working with the PirosLife project have brought their 5600 sheep and goats back from the mountains. While in the mountains the animals were grouped into six flocks and various measures taken to protect them from bear attacks. The cost is borne by the PirosLife project.
The system allows the flocks to be protected twenty-four hours a day. During the night the sheep are gathered together inside moveable electrified net fencing. They are protected by guard dogs (mastiffs) which also follow the flocks in the day.
Some of the shepherds have been trained by the Catalan shepherds’ school which is also supported by the administration.
The losses in protected flocks are significantly lower than those in other flocks. In 2018, 88% of the losses due to bears were animals belonging to owners who has not taken up these measures which are completely free.
In the case of the six protected flocks the bears were responsible for the deaths of eight sheep and one goat, 0.16% of the total. Of the deaths, some were sheep that remained outside the fencing overnight and some were deaths caused by panicking sheep being crushed in a stampede.
On the other hand, the 50 attacks on unprotected flocks of sheep and goats resulted in 86 deaths.
As far as beehives are concerned, there were 4 attacks on 8 unprotected hives and 12 attacks on 51 hives in protective fencing.
35% of the 1.7 million euros allocated to the PirosLife project have so far been used for the protection of flocks. Of the total of 2.5 million euros available for the project, the EU provides 75% of the funding. The remaining 25% is provided by a consortium of the Catalan Department for the environment and sustainability, the Aran valley council, the Fondation Oso Pardo (Brown bear foundation), Forestal Catalana (a quango responsible for forestry) and the University of Lleida.
In 2018 the Generalitat has spent 200,000€ on paying shepherds and cowhands, improving equipment and huts, etc. It also facilitates the search for stray sheep and cows.
In addition, the Aran valley council compensates for the all losses, including those of farmers who have not used protective measures. In 2017 the compensation to farmers came to 33,000€, compared with 10,000€ in 2016. An official decree details the compensation which is normally paid in 4–5 months. In addition, the protected animals also have free insurance in case of accident or other incidents.