Switzerland debates culling its wolves

Conservation efforts have led to a global rebound in wolf populations. But it's also sparked debate in places like the U.S., Germany, and France... over protecting wolves versus protecting farmland.

And now on Sunday, (September 27) Switzerland will vote on whether to make it easier to cull the animals.

Switzerland only has about 100 wolves. They were actually wiped out entirely in the 1800s, only to return in recent decades from across the border in Italy.

But they're also a stress for farmers, who risk losing their livestock to the predators.

Martin Keller is one. He says he lost 59 of his sheep last year and was forced to spend $35,000 on electrical fencing.

"The law's opponents are always talking about a 'shoot-to-kill' initiative. We don't want to kill all the wolves. All we want is to be allowed to regulate problem wolves and that local decisions can be made more easily than under the existing framework."

If passed, local governments will be able to kill wolves seen as a threat to livestock even before they attack.

They could also be shot if they are seen as having lost their fear of humans.

Isabelle Germanier is from the Swiss Wolf Group - an advocacy group promoting coexistence with the animals.

She believes wolves will survive even if the new law passes, but warned some parts of Switzerland could try to eradicate the animal again.

"We know that two out of the 26 states are a little bit reluctant regarding the presence of wolves, they are trying to push them gently towards their way out, they are failing, so poaching is one of the solutions. I think wolves will survive, they have a phenomenal adaptability.

Conservationists argue that 300 to 500 sheep lost every year to wolves is a fraction compared to thousands that die from disease or accidents.

Polls show Swiss voters are divided on the proposed law.