Call issued to end a ‘barbaric’ hunt

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Wolverine pups that haven’t even seen the light of day are routinely pulled out of their mothers’ winter dens and shot by Norwegian wildlife officials. The controversial practice is part of state-authorized efforts to reduce the wolverine population in Norway, because it threatens free-grazing sheep and reindeer.

This male wolverine pup was among those shot during last year’s raids on wolverines’ winter dens, to shoot pups and their mothers. PHOTO: Statens Naturoppsyn (SNO)

“I’ll never get used to taking the lives of small wolverine pups,” Lars Gangås of the state agency Statens Naturoppsyn (SNO), claimed in the NRK TV series Villmarkens voktere (Guards of the wilderness). “It’s simply unpleasant.” SNO is the state agency that’s part of Norway’s environmental directorate, in charge of preserving “national environmental values,” preventing environmental crime,and a variety of other functions including carrying out wildlife management policies.

Now the environmental organization Naturvernforbundet is issuing a formal call to halt the practice, called hiuttak, which literally translates to withdrawals (uttak) from an animal’s winter dens or lairs (hi). “This is a barbaric method that’s used to reduce the population of a seriously threatened species in Norwegian nature,” Arnodd Håpnes of Naturvernforbundet told NRK this week.

‘Stop the slaughter’
The organization was calling this week to “stop the slaughter of wolverines.” On the organization’s own website, Håpnes accuses the state of having “a morbid, built-in dynamic” in its management of wolverines (called jerv in Norwegian) that’s “well-suited to cementing the impression of Norway as Europe’s super-worst at managing predators.” Norwegian authorities and the farmers prodding them on have also been harshly criticized for the country’s wolf hunts, also aimed at greatly reducing the wolf population even though it nearly became extinct less than 50 years ago.

Norway continues to have a large portion of Europe’s wolverine population, but not so large, Håpnes claims, that it justifies pulling pups out of their dens and shooting them along with their mothers. Norway has been the target of international criticism over its seal hunts, which involved clubbing baby seals for their skins but also to prevent them from eating too much fish later in life. Now the country’s practice of killing wolverine pups is drawing reaction as well.

Håpnes, who specializes in and leads wildlife management efforts at Norway’s chapter of Friends of the Earth, claims the wolverine population has been “shot down” dramatically in recent years: Authorities registered 40 wolverine females that gave birth to pups, just above the low “population goal” of 39. The entire population is calculated as consisting of 324 wolverines, with 113 of them targeted for being shot by the middle of this month.

This wolverine escaped being killed shortly after birth, but remained subject to an annual hunt. In the fall of 2016, Norway’s environmental directorate (Miljødirektoratet) decided to “take out” seven litters of jerv “because of the damage and potential damage they could cause to grazing sheep and tame reindeer,” according to the directorate. The actual number of litters destroyed rose to 10. PHOTO: Statens naturoppsyn (SNO)/Stein Ø Nilsen

“Killing off a third of the population is a lot, and in reality it’s much more,” he said, because 10 of the 40 females with their litters were tracked down in their dens and shot last spring, in addition to the 113 in the authorized hunt in the fall. That, Håpnes claims, can cut the wolverine population by half.

The controversial practice of pulling the litters of pups from their dens and killing them has not been widely known, but NRK reported that it’s occurred 143 times since 2001. It’s been justified by the discoveries of the bloody cadavers of sheep and reindeer that were documented to have been attacked by wolverines. Atle Hamar, state secretary for the Liberal Party in the state Climate and Environmental Ministry, points to protection of Norwegian farmers’ tradition of releasing livestock for open grazing in the summer (beitenæringen) when he explains why the practice continues.

“We have to take care of both the open grazing business and the wolverines as a predator,” Hamar told NRK. The practice has been under evaluation, he said, “and we’ll look at this again.”

Free grazing itself threatens sheep
Others contend that wolves and wolverines pose the least threat to sheep. One man pointed, in a letter to the editor of Aftenposten on Thursday, that the greatest threat to sheep released for open grazing is that practice itself, “because no one is taking care of the animals.” The letter writer, Steinar Austheim, pointed to an estimated 100,000 sheep that “have died an unnecessary death” during the past 10 years because of injury, illness, infection, and drowning. A large number of sheep are also never rounded up at the end of the summer grazing season and then freeze to death, “because no one bothered to find them,” Austheim said. Farmers raising sheep can also claim financial compensation from the state if they’re lost or killed. The estimated 100,000 sheep that died from neglect compares to 1,849 believed to have been killed by wolves.

In addition come those killed by wolverines who escaped this past fall and winter hunt that ended on February 15. Asked whether the controversial practice of hiuttak will be used this spring as well, Hamar told NRK it “surely” would, “in order to manage the population in the best possible manner.” Berglund


  1. richard albert says:

    Let us go back about one hundred years, to 1920, North America. William Brooks Cabot, in his book ‘Labrador’, recounts that having shot a wolverine, an impromptu necropsy was performed which revealed that it was “…full of mice.” Not moose, but mice. Hmmm…
    One of the pervasive characteristics of de capo predators worldwide is economy of effort. This is based upon a necessity which is the most urgent in obligate and near-obligate carnivores. You gain the maximum number of calories from the least feasible effort. This is not laziness. You can’t fill in with acorns and berries. It is a survival mechanism forged over aeons of evolution. A wolverine (carcajou, jerv) however demonized, is not a speed-demon. The prospect of its chasing down a healthy and able ungulate under even moderate conditions (unlike say, a cheetah) is ludicrous. Voles, ground squirrels and nesting birds are not difficult prey for an animal with great digging capabilities, and the ability to enlarge and enter the burrows and dens of its prey, even including badgers. Moreover, the despatch of such animals is trivial. The struggles of a small bird or rodent are inconsequential compared to the effort required to bring down, kill and dismember even a reindeer calf.
    Only in winter, when such relatively easy pickings are absent, does the wolverine expend the effort to seek out and kill large, and generally combative prey equipped with horns, antlers, tusks, sharp hooves, and deadly bites. These are in general taken not by chase in open country, but by ambush – dropping from some overhang; tree branch, rock ledge, outcrop, etc. An exception is in deep, relatively soft snow where the wolverine has the edge due to large ‘snowshoe’ paws, and where a heavier hooved animal must bound – a relatively inefficient form of locomotion.
    Wolverines actually prefer to chase other predators – wolves, and in North America lynx and bobcats, off of their kills. The strategy of the dingo, and of the hyena, who apparently gets the last laugh.
    The notion that wolverines prefer to run down sheep on relatively open range, with little opportunity for arboreal ambush; in the presence of abundant small prey, natural attrition, and grand theft carcass is fatuous. It gets worse if you look at the stats. How many sheep? How many Jerv? How many of Mary’s little lambs would each nasty old weasel have to kill to make an economic blip? Just ‘hvem i helvete’ is the endangered species here?
    Matter of fact, bets on that the sheep kill that is attributed to wolverines is either second-hand, or the ones mentioned in the article which are overlooked, neglected, left to starve; or just plain sick and so were abandoned. Since this economically and ecologically (unless that you don’t believe that the economic damage from rodents is monumental) indefensible nonsense, we must look elsewhere for antecedents. Let’s turn back again to Cabot.
    “The beast inspires vindictiveness in most amiable persons. While McKenzie was at Chimo he had some traps out and was troubled by a wolverine family. Although he managed to catch the young ones, the old mother was too clever for him, and he finally resorted to a spring gun with a bait, and four steel traps set about. When the beast pulled on the bait the gun only snapped without going off, but, startled, the animal jumped and landed in one of the traps, and by the time Peter came along she had picked up two or three more.
    Peter related that he sat down and looked at her awhile, then took a stick and beat her well, and so on for some time before he killed her. As Peter had a singularly amiable temperament the incident may be taken as showing that few dispositions can bear the wolverine test.”
    Inspires vindictiveness in (the most amiable of) persons. How about persons who are not amiable? Who leave sheep to die on the range; who let hogs wallow in filth, raise fur-bearing animals in appalling conditions, and routinely shake down the body politic? And the Happiest Nation on Earth tolerates this crap? You just flunked the wolverine test.

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