The increasingly controversial area of predator policy has been cast in a new light after fresh research suggested that Norwegian wolves have barely killed a single sheep in the last 14 years. The research places the blame for sheep losses firmly on their Swedish cousins.
The study by Hedmark University College (Høgskolen i Hedmark, HH), described as a “research bomb” by Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), attributes guilt for the vast majority of recent sheep attacks at the hands of Swedish wolves that routinely migrate over the border. Furthermore, the wolves are believed to migrate from the easternmost regions of Norway’s neighbouring country.
Energy and development minister Erik Solheim – a representative of the Socialist Left Party, which wants to protect Norway’s wolf population – reacted to the news by commenting that “it is the Swedish wolves that must be reduced, both if we want to increase the wolf stock in Norway and if we will limit the extent of the damage.”
Representatives of affected farming communities were unmoved by the research revelations. “We have gone from a loss percentage of 2 or 3 percent some years ago to around 16 percent. In certain flocks the losses have been up at 50 percent,” said Ingrid Lekve, a representative of the Løten and Vang communities speaking to NRK. “We will not have wolves or bears here. For us, it does not matter where the wolves come from.”
Predator policy – which relates to populations of bears, wolves, lynx, wolverines and other carnivores – is being intensely debated by politicians this spring. As a consensus around agreed species levels from 2004 falls apart, the government is expected to announce a new policy direction soon, with opposition parties calling for a wholesale re-evaluation of the issue.