Police probe attempt to poison wolves

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Someone has tried to poison Norway’s largest wolf pack, known as Kynnareviret, which roams in an area between Våler and Åsnes in Hedmark County. Police have found poisoned bait in six separate locations this winter, not far from the cadaver of a moose that had been killed by wolves just before the Christmas holidays.

Wolves are under constant threat in Norway, from people who firmly believe wolves threaten them. PHOTO: Statens naturoppsyn/Lars Gangås

“This is both serious economic crime and an inhumane way to kill an animal,” prosecutor Henning Klauseie of the Inland Police District told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Wednesday. “So it’s also a violation of animal welfare laws.”

One of the mounds of poisoned bait was found by a hiker out with his dog near the lake Skårsjøen on New Year’s Eve. He spotted vehicle tire tracks in the fresh snow at the time, found that odd in the forested area and decided to follow them.

Then he could see that somone had gotten out of the vehicle and walked in the terrain. Then the hiker’s dog found the pile of meat that immediately raised suspicions. The hiker contacted both local wildlife authorities at the state agency SNO (Statens Naturoppsyn) and police.

Meat ‘marinated’ in antifreeze
They eventually found six such piles of bait in the area. The meat was sent to the Oslo University Hospital’s laboratory for testing, which determined that it had been “marinated” in the antifreeze liquid used by vehicles.

Klauseie said that any animal eating the poisoned bait would quickly fall ill and die a painful death, because the antifreeze would destroy the animal’s kidneys. The leader of the local council charged with controlling the area’s highly controversial wolf population reacted with disgust to the discovery of poisoned bait.

“These are methods that I, at least, strongly oppose,” Arnfinn Nergård of the council (Rovviltnemnda in Hedmark) told NRK. His council had recommended shooting more wolves in the area last year but failed to win approval to kill more than one wolf pack in a zone otherwise set aside for wolves. Norway’s Climate and  Environment Ministry allowed killing some wolves in the zone, over protests of those trying to protect the country’s wolf population, but not as many as local farmers and landowners wanted, leaving everyone angry and dissatisfied.

Difficult investigation
Nergård conceded that setting out poisoned bait “may be an expression that (local residents) feel they lack power” to rid their area of wolves. “But it’s not possible to ethically defend this way of acting,” Nergård said. Police are investigating but admitted it would be difficult to find out how laid out the bait. They were calling for tips from the public.

It’s not the first time anti-wolf activists have tried to poison wolves, and wildlife researchers also believe there’s widespread illegal wolf hunts going on in Norway, led by farmers and landowners who believe wolves threaten their livelihoods. Farmers want to be continue to allow their sheep to graze freely, for example, while landowners earn substantial income by granting hunting rights on their property. Wolves, they fear, can scare away the moose, deer and other targets of hunters.

It’s unclear whether any wolves or other wild animals ate any of the poisoned bait. A total of 14 wolves were registered in the area earlier this winter. “We know that a few have left this pack,” Jan Huseklepp Wilberg of SNO told NRK. “We have tracked seven wolves in the area after New Year.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund