Leisure, Background

PostBus signs concerning livestock protection

Guard dogs protect sheep from wolf attacks. Many hikers and cyclists are unsure how they should behave around these dogs. The Agridea information signs now offer tips on site. The signs are actually converted bus stop signs, donated to this good cause by PostBus.

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Livestock guard dog

Some 200 guard dogs are used to protect livestock on around 100 alps throughout Switzerland. They protect sheep, goats and occasionally herds of cattle against attacks by predators – mostly wolves, but also lynxes and bears. In the summer pastures, these dogs are largely left to work on their own. They have a natural instinct to guard their livestock against strangers. To avoid any tension when the dogs encounter people visiting the mountains, they are trained how to behave around strangers.

But visitors must also respect certain rules if their encounters with these impressive dogs are to go smoothly. That is why Agridea, which implements the national livestock protection programme on behalf of the Federal Office for the Environment, has now erected a series of visitor navigation signs for hikers and cyclists. By means of maps and texts, they inform visitors of where they might come across animals that are protected by dogs and how they should handle such situations. The signs are placed not only in the mountains but also at the starting points of hiking and bike trails.

Turning old into new

These signs are exposed to the weather, must be very stable and are therefore costly: a frame alone costs about 350 Swiss francs. To keep material costs – which run to several tens of thousands of francs – as low as possible, PostBus Switzerland Ltd and Agridea joined forces to find a solution: PostBus bus stop signs that are no longer in use have been converted into information signs. When the bus stops were renovated to make them accessible to disabled people, PostBus had to replace the old signs with new ones, offering the old ones to the livestock protection agency free of charge. These bus stop signs would otherwise simply have been scrapped or sold to foreign transport companies.

Several hundred signs

In 2015, the signs were tested in different areas popular with visitors as part of a pilot project. These areas included the Gantrisch–Schwarzsee region, the Surselva district and Entlebuch. The feedback from hikers was positive, so this summer, and in the years to come, more signs will be erected in numerous areas. Eventually, there will be several hundred such signs.

The visitor navigation signs provide more than a simple code of conduct. They suggest alternative routes for dog owners to avoid conflict with the guard dogs. They also provide an overview of all hiking trails in the surrounding area. And thanks to the QR codes printed on the signs, smartphone owners can view a film showing the correct behaviour to be adopted with regard to livestock guard dogs.

Information and tips on behaviour concerning livestock protection: www.protectiondestroupeaux.ch

Information sign in the Gotthard area
Information sign in the Gotthard area