In a controversial plan, Norway is set to cull more than two-thirds of its remaining wolves due to apparent harm inflicted on sheep flocks by the predators. The wolf population in Norway is estimated to be around 68 individuals. Plans approved on Friday would allow for 47 wolves to be culled.
There is a lot of enthusiasm for wolf hunting in Norway. In 2015, 11,000 hunters applied for licences allowing 16 wolves to be shot.
These plans have sparked outrage among the conservation and animal rights community. According to environmental groups, the claim that wolves harm livestock is unfounded and the response to minimal damage is disproportionate. Nina Jensen, chief executive of WWF in Norway, said on Twitter: “This is an outright mass slaughter. Something like we have not seen in almost 100 years….shooting 70% of the wolf population is not worthy of a nation claiming to be championing environmental causes. People all over the country, and outside its borders, are now reacting….this decision includes a wolf family in Letjenna who have not taken or eaten one sheep since they established themselves there in the winter of 2011/2012.””
She said the losses to farmers from wolves had been minimal, and pointed to settlements by the Norwegian parliament in 2004 and 2011 that stipulated populations of carnivores must be allowed to co-exist with livestock. Around 2 million sheep graze on open lands in Norway with approximately 120,000 going missing each year from natural causes, accidents or predators. The numbers of sheep killed by wolves varies from 380 to 1,800.
Conservation biologist Crystal Crown writes, “It does appear that Norwegian farmers have a vendetta against wolves that is not rooted in fact, but rather fear and hate. If anything, the culling program could serve to reinforce these fears by making the farmers feel justified.” She notes that Norway maintains its wolf population at around 20 animals, calling it “artificially low numbers.”
A report, published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, questing the effectiveness of predator control stated “Livestock owners traditionally use various non-lethal and lethal methods to protect their domestic animals from wild predators. However, many of these methods are implemented without first considering experimental evidence of their effectiveness in mitigating predation-related threats or avoiding ecological degradation,” states the report.
“This decision must be stopped,” said Silje Ask Lundberg, chair of Friends of the Earth Norway. “With this decision, three out of six family groups of wolves might be shot. We are calling on the minister of environment to stop the butchering. Today, Norway should be ashamed.”