The hills and forests north of Oslo called Nordmarka are a popular recreational area for local residents and home to grazing livestock in the summer. Now at least two wolves are believed to be on the prowl, and state authorities have authorized a hunt.
Wolf hunts are always controversial in Norway, where wolves nearly became extinct and conservationists have worked for years to restore the wolf population. It’s still relatively small, but ranchers who release their sheep for summer grazing feel threatened and won approval for the first wolf hunt ever in Nordmarka, which borders Oslo but also stretches into the municipalities of Lunner and Jevnaker on the forest’s north side, Akershus on the west and Hole and Ringerike on the east.
The hunt was authorized after the cadavers of lambs were found first in Jevnaker and then, last Thursday, near the lake Harestuvannet in Lunner. Another two dead lambs were found near the lake Svarten near Oppkuven, one of the highest peaks in the heart of Nordmarka and a popular spot for skiing in winter and hiking and cycling in summer. Two other lambs were found severely mauled and had to be destroyed.
Wildlife authorities at Statens Naturoppsyn (SNO) told newspaper Aftenposten over the weekend that they could document that a wolf was behind the attacks. The hunt was formally authorized by the chief administrator (fylkesmann) of Oppland County in cooperation with Buskerud County. It began at 9pm Thursday and will run until Monday June 22 at noon.
“Given the discoveries we’ve made, it looks like the wolf is roaming westbound,” Ole Knut Steinseth of SNO told Aftenposten. There may be a second wolf roaming in Nordmarka as well, but there were no DNA traces that could connect the attacks.
“It looks like the wolf can be a problem for us this summer,” Per Ohlin, chairman of the ranchers’ association in Lunner told Aftenposten. He estimates around 5,000 sheep and their lambs are grazing in the northern portions of Nordmarka, along with cattle and their calves. The wolves also are known to attack moose. Carl Otto Løvenskiold, whose family has owned the vast forest area for generations, said he was “very worried” by the prospect of wolves in Nordmarka, “and sorry that we’ve found animals that have been killed.”
Others welcome the return of wolves including to Oslo’s eastern forest known as Østmarka. It’s become home to a pair of wolves that had pups and seemed to be establishing themselves in Østmarka, also a popular recreational area that borders on many residential areas. Several local residents told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) they had encountered the wolves while out cycling or walking but were not bothered. Fears rose last winter, though, that hunters had illegally killed the female wolf after researchers could no longer find any trace of her.