In the Southern Alps, sheep breeders were already familiar with the risk of attacks from dogs, when a new predator, the wolf (Canis lupus) settled there from 1992 on. Since that year, wolf advocates have been arguing that attacks by wolves are few compared with attacks by dogs. But there were no data available. An exhaustive survey was therefore conducted among sheep breeders in a wolf-free area, the Luberon Massif (Vaucluse and Alpes-de-Haute-Provence), to record dog attacks and understand how these occur. The rate of dog attacks is low in this area, where sheep are many. Most of the problems are caused by wandering dogs from neighbouring areas; attacks by genuine ?stray? dogs are very scarce. Results were compared with other surveys conducted in other areas. The dog attacks are scarce in another part of Southern Alps, but more numerous in regions where sheep breeding is residual. The results obtained were compared with attacks in nearby areas where wolves are present in Southern Alps. Two strongly discriminating indicators were found: where wolves are present, attack rates are much higher and the visual identification of the attacker is much rarer. These results aim at providing managers with an early warning system to alert them to the arrival of wolves in a new area, before the fact can be confirmed by genetical tests. This will improve emergency action (compensation measures, flock protection), which, to be successful, must be taken swiftly. The survey also shows the gap between what is generally said about ?stray? dogs, and the actual experience of breeders in the Southern Alps.
Stray dogs, wandering dogs, wolves, predation, Southern Alps, sheep breeders.