Twelve people were arrested in Hedmark on Tuesday for illegal wolf hunting, under a huge sting involving 70 officers. For years police had suspected organized hunting was going on, and finally got the evidence they needed after Hedmark police and the economic crime unit Økokrim collaborated to investigate the poachers over winter.
Those arrested were from Trysil, Engerdal, Stor-Elvdal and Elverum, and the charges included environmental and organized crime. “We will not yet say anything about the total number of wolves this concerns, but what I can say is that some of these people could have been behind illegal hunting of several wolves stretching several years back in time,” said Økokrim prosecutor Tarjei Istad. They could face sentences of up to 11 years imprisonment.
Researchers tracking Norway’s small wolf population raised the alarm a couple of years ago when they noticed several parental pairs suddenly disappeared. A report released by the Hedmark University College (Høyskolen i Hedmark) estimated every second wolf is illegally shot.
“Every year we have got messages and tips about this, so it has been going on for a long time, but we have not managed to reach them earlier,” said Istad. “The last year, and especially this winter, we have stepped up the effort and it has led to this action.”