Norway has 30,000 wild reindeer, but only about 70 wolves, according to the latest estimates. Still, that is too many for sheep farmers, who fear for their livestock. Last autumn, regional predator management boards licensed hunters to cull the wolf population by 70%, or at least 47 animals.
According to The Economist, environmentalists said this would violate the Bern convention on the conservation of European wildlife, and by December the environment minister, Vidar Helgesen, had reduced the kill limit to 15. In February Mr Helgesen announced a new bill that would let regional authorities set cull limits on a case-by-case basis.
“Wolves get so much attention in Norway because of the power of regional policy,” says Ketil Skogen of the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research. The Norwegian government provides fat subsidies to keep rural areas populated, yet remote communities continue to shrink. When their residents say they want large predators shot, authorities listen. Wolves threaten hunting dogs, Mr Skogen says, and compete with hunters for game.
Though farming organisations support culls, pastureland within wolf range is limited. Estimates suggest wolves kill 1,500-2,000 head of livestock per year, and farmers are compensated for their losses.
By contrast, urban Norwegians are more likely than rural ones to favour the wolves—even in eastern Oslo, according to Mr Skogen, which has a breeding pair. If medieval Norway’s spirit lives on, it may have moved to the suburbs.
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Jean Baptiste Karegeya
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