Wolves have emerged as the most sought-after animal for Norwegian hunters this season, with 11,571 people registering for licences to shoot 16 animals – a ratio of 723 hunters per wolf.
The animals – of which Norway may have as few as 30 living in the wild – top the league in new figures that reveal a trigger-happy community of hunters.
The Norwegian brown bear comes in a close second with 10,930 registered licence holders keen to hunt down 18 individuals, followed by 10,820 licence holders interested in 141 wolverines, according to the country’s register for hunters.
The number of those registering to hunt wolves in the 2015-16 season compares with just under 10,000 people registered for the 2013-14 season – the last for which figures are available, according to the Norwegian Association for Fishing and Hunting.
In Norway, the wolf-hunting season begins on 1 October and ends on 31 March.
Norway has a strong tradition of hunting and more than 200,000 registered hunters, most of whom have signed up for automatic notification once the licences are issued. It is viewed as a thrill – and definitely a male domain. Only about 500 women have registered for this year’s hunt, although the proportion of female hunters in Norway is growing steadily.
The main pack of wolves is based in the south-eastern part of Norway, where they also have a designated habitat. However, many individuals wander into other areas of the country – risking their lives in doing so.
Wolves that enter Sweden, Finland or Russia might be luckier since those countries are considered more concerned with sustainability of such fragile animal populations. While neither the wolf nor bear populations are yet at the level sought by Norwegian authorities, decisions to hand out hunting licences are made to protect livestock, according to the country’s environment agency.
While licensed hunting is part of a policy to keep predator populations under control, it is suspected that such populations – and especially the wolves – are kept down by illegal hunting, said Petter Wabakken, an internationally acclaimed expert on wolves. He thinks this is particularly disturbing given that Norway’s wolf population is perhaps as small as 30 animals.
Government policy at present allows three breeding females within the designated area. This is not enough to sustain a healthy population, Wabakken said.
This article was first published by The Guardian on 01 Dec 2015.
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