More than 200 wolves have invaded the southern regions of France and are menacing mountainside sheep, it is claimed.

Thought to have crossed over from Italy in the mid-1990s, the wolves are moving  into the Hautes Alps, situated in the south-east of France near the border with Italy.

Lionel Serres, who has 250 head of sheep on the mountainside, told the BBC: "We have had lots of dead and injured sheep. The flock is in a pretty sorry state. Some are lame, they are stressed, and some are so frightened they have miscarried lambs."

To combat the problem, Serres has hired a shepherd to sleep alongside the sheep at night.

French veil ban begins to nationwide protests

Air France crash: plane fell at 180ft a second

This year there have been almost 600 attacks in the area, and over 2,000 sheep have been killed. Farmers in the region have taken to painting large signs on the road that read "NO to the wolf".

Owing to an anti-hunting code agreed in 2004, wolves can only be shot legally in France by government marksmen or licensed shepherds.

Some have defended the wolves and instead blamed the attacks on wild dogs.

Jean-Francois Darmstaedter, secretary general of Ferus, a French wolf protection agency, said: "Remember there are eight million dogs in France and 200 wolves."