Meanwhile in Norway

Take a moment to vote, what do you think of the Ministries decision to cull large percentages of Norway’s critically endangered wolf population:

Norway’s wolves, 2019-2020 update —

Another terrible winter season for the so-called “permanently protected” wolves in Norway. (Norway’s wolves were placed on the Norwegian Red List for Species on May 15th in 1973, where they remain characterized as critically endangered.)

The 2018-2019 survey indicated that there are approximately 380 wolves in Scandinavia. Of those 380 just 64-66 are considered Norwegian.

Presently, the critically endangered wolf is only allowed to establish itself within the wolf zone which constitutes just under 5 percent of Norway’s territory. Outside of the zone, all wolves are removed throughout the year, either through legal licensed extermination, or through promptly enforced permits, though often the wolves have done no harm.

Sickness, accidents and collisions can happen, but the main cause of death of wolves in Scandinavia is legal and illegal hunting. Research shows that illegal hunting is of considerable scope, and today illegal hunting of wolves is a major challenge to ensure proper “management” of this imperiled species, with pups suffering the highest mortality. Intense hunting caused the wolf to be exterminated in Norway in the 1960s.

A total of 40 family groups and 28 breeding pairs were registered in 2019. 64–66 wolves were classified as entirely Norwegian (living predominantly within Norway’s border). 40–41 wolves were registered on both sides of the border with Sweden, mainly in border crossings, but also a few on migration. In total, just 104–107 wolves live within or partially reside in Norway.

The licensed slaughter of wolves outside the wolf zone started on December 1st and will continue until May 31st. (The wolf hunting period, outside the wolf zone changed, and was originally from October 1st through March 31st, but is now December 1st through May 31st.) The Ministry of Climate and Environment has authorized the “removal” of up to 26 wolves outside of the wolf zone, and believes that killing nearly half of Norway’s wolf population (classified as entirely Norwegian), outside the wolf zone, will not threaten the survival of the southern Scandinavian wolf population.

The licensed slaughter of wolves, they say, “is not ordinary hunting, but felling that is motivated by the need to reduce damage to livestock and domestic reindeer.” Mind you, each year, around two million Norwegian sheep are grazing on unimproved mountain-range pastures during summer, and are neither fenced nor guarded, and each year about 125,000 ewes and lambs are lost on summer range. How many of these are taken by predators is uncertain and often a subject of disagreement between farmers and the wildlife administration.

The predators’ decision in region 1 (Sogn og Fjordane, Hordaland, Rogaland and Vest-Agder), region 3 (Oppland), 4 and 5 (Hedmark, Oslo, Akershus and Østfold) and 6 (Central Norway) were appealed. None of the complaints were upheld. The predatory game committees adopt quotas that are far higher than the number of wolves that are actually living outside of the wolf zone. Because of such a high quota, wolves migrating out of the wolf zone can be shot during the hunting season.

A week-and-a-half before the licensed hunting of wolves began, on November 22nd, Norwegian authorities took to the air in another controversial move to “control” the country’s tiny, critically endangered wolf population. Two wolves were shot and killed via aerial gunning.

“We were given the assignment, arranged the helicopter and were finished within 10 minutes.”

Mayors in Tolga, Tynset and Rendalen had sought after the removal as the wolves were blamed for local attacks on free-grazing sheep and reindeer last summer and earlier this autumn.

In another case, on November 14th, a wolf registered as “genetically valuable” was marked, drugged and moved by helicopter from an area in northern Hedmark to the so-called “wolf zone.” And, of course, the genetically valuable wolf did wander outside of the zone to an area where a total of 12 wolves will be shot in region 5 (which includes Hedmark, Akershus and Østfold). Thankfully, the Ministry of the Environment intervened, created a buffer area, and stopped the hunt in large parts of central and southern Hedmark from Elverum all the way down to South Odal and Kongsvinger. Unfortunately this buffer is removed on January 1st and this “genetically valuable” animal could easily be killed during the wolf “removal” season if it, or others, wander outside of the protective area. DNA testing on the wolf that had been marked indicated it had wandered into Norway from Finland and possibly Russia. (So-called genetic inbreeding is used as an argument to reduce the wolf population size, yet less genetic exchange between populations is perpetuated, due to the fact that many migrating wolves are killed.)

Environment Minister Ola Elvestuen believes that this year’s quota does not threaten the wolf population ⁠—

“We changed our licensed hunting period outside the wolf zone. One of the reasons was that genetically valuable wolves from Finland and Russia most often show up in the fall as we saw in Engerdal in the fall. The Scandinavian wolf population has a high degree of inbreeding. By delaying the start of the licensed removal, we have reduced the risk of killing genetically valuable wolves.”

And as I said in my 2018/19 update ⁠—

Ah, but no worries, this is just a critically endangered species of which just barely 100 individuals remain. The reason is quite simple you see, there are far too many breeding pairs! The national goal allowed is just 4 to 6 litters, so kill, kill, kill they must. (Four to six litters in the binational population each year, with at least three born to packs living entirely within Norwegian borders.)

Where have all the wolves gone.

The forest weeps in silence.
I hear the winds eternal sigh…
Let the wolf live! Save our wolves!

Where have all the wolves gone.
I hear the winds eternal sigh…
Stop the extinction policy now.

Shame on Norway.

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Feature image by Peter Beckwermert

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