Wolf plan met by howls of protest

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New proposals for maintaining a wolf population in Norway left all sides howling Friday in the ongoing wildlife management debate. The government claims it mostly just wants to continue having a so-called “wolf zone” where the animals can roam freely in roughly the same numbers as today, but with a few changes.

Wolves are a controversial subject in Norway. Reaction to the government's proposals for managing the wolf population were met with howls of protest from all sides. PHOTO: Klima- og Miljødepartementet/Scanpix

Wolves are a controversial subject in Norway. Reaction to the government’s proposals for managing the wolf population were met with howls of protest from all sides. PHOTO: Klima- og Miljødepartementet/Scanpix

“The government wants wolves to remain a part of the Norwegian nature,” stated Vidar Helgesen, who recently took over as Norway’s government minister in charge of climate and the environment. The country is also obligated to protect wolves in line with international conventions.

“We must therefore find solutions for how many wolves we shall have and where they can live,” Helgesen wrote in his report on new proposals released Friday. He acknowledged that the issue was “difficult,” with farmers, ranchers, hunters, local residents and environmentalists all at odds with one another and the state.

Helgesen proposes maintaining the “wolf zone” that currently extends along the Swedish border from the southern portion of Østerdalen east of the Glomma and south beyond Moss. The zone includes of the the hills and forests around Oslo, the Nesodden peninsula and south along the Oslo Fjord.

He’s proposing adding a new portion just north of the current border along the Trysil/Femund waterways, while removing areas west of Glomma and just north of Øyeren. The areas removed are aimed at protecting sheep and other livestock from roaming wolves. The total area would be reduced by 0.5 percent.

Rancher ‘shocked’
Sheep rancher Kaj Teppen was among those immediately feeling threatened, even “shocked,” by the proposals. “This is not in line with the promises we got before the election,” Teppen told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). He and many other ranchers want to reduce the numbers of wolves in Norway, and he claims Helgesen’s proposals won’t do that.

Knut Arne Gjems, leader of the hunters’ lobby in Hedmark County, was also disappointed by the new proposals. He expected more restrictions on wolves. “We don’t think a reserve for wolves is the right way to manage the wolf population,” he told NRK. “There should be wolf hunting allowed just like there is for other wildlife in the whole country, and it should start from the Swedish border.”

He claims the current wolf zone also makes it difficult to hunt in Hedmark because it’s risky to release elk hounds. That can also upset the moose population. He claimed that 125 hunting dogs were attacked by wolves in recent years, and that wolves were also attacking moose.

Up to Parliament to decide
The Norwegian chapter of wildlife advocacy group WWF was also upset, but for entirely differnt reasons. They think the government is proposing protection for a “critically low level” of wolves. There are currently an estimated nine wolf families in Norway and along the Swedish border area, and WWF fears the wolf pups will be hunted.

“The Parliament must make sure that wolves are allowed to be part of the Norwegian nature where they belong,” Nina Jensen, secretary general of WWF, told news bureau NTB. The environmental group Naturvernforbundet was also disappointed, saying it had hoped the government would safeguard wolves in a better manner than it does today. Several environmental organizations want 30 breeding pairs of wolves in Norway, while the government is proposing between five and eight including those on the Swedish side of the border. The farmer-friendly Center Party thinks even that is far too many, and accused the government of all but declaring war against rural communities in Hedmark.

The proposal will now be forwarded to Parliament. Helgesen said the government would “take the initiative” towards reaching a compromise. “It’s important to note that it’s the Parliament that will decide on goals and measures for wolf management in Norway,” he said.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund

  • John Palmer

    Just don’t let those pesky Swedish wolves come and co-mingle. They howl in Swedish and will degrade the pure Norwegian wolf’s language.

    • richard albert

      Perhaps the best solution would be to give any of the displaced wolves refuge status…