Alleged wolf hunters kept in custody

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Seven men remained in jail on Thursday morning, after Hedmark police arrested 12 people earlier in the week for illegal wolf hunting. Three of the seven were remanded in custody until Friday morning, and police had not ruled out holding more of the men for longer.

Wolves from Sweden are being blamed for sheep losses, but other predators are guilty as well, along with Norway's open-grazing traditions. Many sheep ranchers let their flocks run free during the summer months, without being fenced in. PHOTO: Wikipedia Commons

Police charged 12 men with environmental and organized crime on Tuesday over the illegal hunting of wolves in Hedmark. Several of the men were remanded in custody all week while police investigated their mobile phones, computers and weapons. PHOTO: Wikipedia Commons

Five of the men were released on Thursday morning after undergoing police interrogation. Police said they decided to remand three of the men until Friday morning because they still had large amounts of seized telephones, computers and weapons to investigate, and feared the men would destroy further evidence.

“The four who are not remanded now, we must consider during the day if they will be held,” economic crime unit Økokrim prosecutor, Tarjei Istad, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “We have no further arrests in the works, but such information can suddenly emerge through seizures or questioning.”

Istad argued the men were trying to eradicate wolves from Hedmark, near Norway’s eastern border with Sweden. The men were from Elverum, Åmot, Engerdal, Trysil and Stor-Elvdal. Istad would not disclose what the men had testified under questioning. NRK contacted several of the men’s lawyers, and none admitted guilt.

Police suspected illegal wolf hunting had been going on for years, after the sudden disappearance of several parental pairs from the local population of about 30 wolves in 2012. Researchers at the Hedmark University College (Høyskolen i Hedmark) estimate every second wolf is illegally shot.

A joint operation involving 70 officers from Hedmark police and Økokrim over the winter turned up the evidence needed to lay charges. Istad said on Tuesday the men could face sentences of up to 11 years imprisonment.

newsinenglish.no/Emily Woodgate