France shoots wolf dead after authorising bigger cull

NICE, France (AFP) - French nature officials have shot dead a female wolf in the foothills of the Alps in the first such killing since the government authorised increased culling of the protected species.

The wolf was killed on Tuesday following a reported increase in attacks on livestock in the Alpes-Maritimes region of southeastern France.

Local farmers blame wolves for the death of 690 sheep or goats since the start of this year and claim attacks have been running at a rate of three per day.

France's environment and agriculture ministers last month approved a decree authorising the killing of up to 24 wolves per year to restrict the growth of a population estimated at around 250.

The aim is to ensure the wolf population does not fall while ensuring it does not grow to a size that would create more problems for farmers.

The maximum cull allowed in recent years has been 11 animals but, in practice, this has not been implemented with only seven wolves having been killed between 2008 and 2012.

Wolves were hunted to the point of extinction in France but they have made a comeback since the late 1990s, when a number of them moved over from neighbouring Italy.