A female wolf believed to be the mother of pups born earlier this year was shot and seriously wounded by a moose hunter in the eastern Oslo forest known as Østmarka. The wolf was found dead on Wednesday and authorities now fear her pups may not survive either.
“We think it is very, very sad that one of the Østmarka wolves has been shot,” Arnodd Håpnes of Naturvernforbundet (Friends of the Earth Norway), told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “This is one of only three breeding packs in the whole country, so this is very sad.”
If DNA testing proves the wolf was indeed the mother of last spring’s pups born in Østmarka, the organization also worried they can be split up. “In the worst case, the pups can die because they won’t be able to get enough food,” Håpnes said. “The pack may also disperse because their structure is no longer intact.”
The hunter claims he shot in self-defense after the wolf attacked his hunting dog on Tuesday afternoon. The dog was seriously injured and underwent surgery. The hunter reported the incident himself to local authorities, who arrived quickly at the scene, in the northern area of Østmarka that lies in the municipality of Lørenskog.
The hunter only managed to shoot the wolf in the neck, however, and it reportedly ran off wounded. County authorities found blood and vomit from the wolf and used their own dogs to try to track her down.
The search continued through the night and the wolf was found dead on Wednesday. The head of the county’s environmental protection unit, Are Heden, told NRK that he and his colleagues don’t think the wolf lived very long after being shot.
Heated debate over wolves
After nearly becoming extinct, Norway’s small wolf population started growing again in accordance with conservation measures that are strongly opposed by ranchers and others who feel threatened by wolves. Angry debates have raged for years, with some political activists including the Center Party objecting to efforts to save the wolves because of the danger they pose to Norway’s tradition of open grazing, especially for sheep.
Despite both legal and illegal wolf hunting, more wolves have established themselves in southern Norway and the first were spotted in the Oslo area a few years ago. Ranchers had long claimed, and probably hoped, that politicians and residents of Oslo keen to protect the wolves would change their minds if wolves appeared in their own areas, but that hasn’t happened. As late as Wednesday morning, NRK reported that a new survey showed widespread support for the wolves, also among hikers, cyclists and others in Oslo who frequently spend time in Østmarka and even had spotted wolves themselves. The sentiment is quite different on the rural side of the forest around Enebakk, though, where ranchers still mightily oppose the wolves and want them removed.
The moose hunter who shot what authorities call the alfahunn wolf faces a routine investigation of the circumstances of the shooting. County authorities hope the dead wolf’s partner will be able to take care of the pups. Håpnes of the environmental group is relieved that at least the patriarch of the pack, called “Fenris” by supporters of the reemergence of the wolves in Østmarka, is still believed to be alive. “The challenges will be for him to find enough food to keep the pups alive and in their den. And then we can hope that a female wolf will wander into the area during the nest two to three years.”