Determined hunters shot a third wolf on Tuesday as Norway’s biggest wolf hunt in 45 years resumed after a forced break between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Farmers who feel threatened by wolves, meanwhile, howled during the holidays over seasonal milk cartons depicting a wolf that they felt glorified the predator they fear the most.
The hunters licensed to sharply reduce Norway’s resurgent wolf population face a possible new court injunction against the current hunt. That’s why they’re keen to kill as many wolves as possible by the end of the week, when a court may rule on a complaint from wildlife organization WWF.
The organization succeeded in temporarily halting the hunt in December. It resumed just before Christmas, only to be suspended because of a ban on hunting during the holidays.
On Monday, around 100 hunters fanned out just after midnight. They were well-prepared, had been tracking the wolves in advance and ultimately encircled some, shooting two wolves inside the wolf zone in Hedmark County and a third on Tuesday. The latter turned out to be a large male wolf in the Julussa pack, also shot in Hedmark County. He’d been spotted on the southern bank of the lake known as Storsjøen in Åmot, along with two other wolves that got away.
Wolves ‘demonized’ in Norway
The hunters are licensed to shoot 16 wolves in two packs (Julussa and Osdals) plus another 12 outside the area set up as a protective zone for wolves. After more than a year of protests and appeals, Norway’s government minister in charge of the environment, Vidar Helgesen, initially seemed to have saved the wolves, but then, under political pressure from opposition parties in Parliament, authorized a hunt of as many as 42 wolves.
It’s all highly controversial, with researchers and environmentalists claiming that more free-grazing sheep in Norway are killed by neglect, sickness, dogs or even eagles than by wolves. “The wolf has been demonized by politicians who build up fears around their mysticism,” zoologist Petter Bøckman told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) when the hunt initially began last month. “I’m much more afraid of large dogs than I am of wolves. The wolves are normally scared to death of people.”
He claims politicians, especially those in the Center Party who have many rural residents among their constituency, has latched onto wolves as a symbol of threats to outlying areas in Norway. “The last time a wolf killed a person was in 1800,” Bøckman told NRK. “This (the anti-wolf campaing and the hunt) is all about district politics, food politics and money.”
More controversy erupted just before the Christmas holidays when Norway’s dominant, farmer-owned dairy cooperative Tine released its special seasonal milk cartons. One of them, for whole milk, featured a howling wolf among other animals that are part of Norwegian nature.
That off howls of protests from farmers including Tine’s own, who were provoked. Some accused Tine of lacking respect “for the farmers who struggle with these animals.” Another wrote on Tine’s own Facebook page that it was akin to slapping the dairy’s suppliers in the face. “Have they gone completely off the deep end?” he wrote.
Tine controls around 80 percent of the market in Norway, with its milk distributed nationwide, so its milk cartons in Norwegian homes serve as a powerful communication tool. Others congratulated Tine “that it could show some of the beautiful predators we have in Norway.”
Illustrations on the cartons included an ørn (eagle) in flight, and a gaupe (lynx). A Tine spokesman wouldn’t say whether there was any political statement behind the dairy’s choice of holiday illustrations this year, but thinks some critics went a bit too far.
“The animals were an element in a bigger story about the fjøsnissen (the equivalent of an elf living in a barn),” he told NRK. Most of the Christmas-oriented cartons have since been consumed and removed from the market as Tine reverts to non-holiday designs.