With snow on the ground making it easier to track wolves, Norwegian authorities took to the air this week in another controversial move to control the country’s wolf population. Two wolves were shot and killed, while a third was sedated and moved to a wolf protection zone.
State wildlife agency SNO (Statens Naturoppsyn) and the state environmental directorate (Miljødirektoratet) confirmed shooting two wolves west of Sølensjøen in Rendalen, eastern Hedmark. Both a male and a female wolf who had marked their territory in the area were shot at midday on Wednesday, Lars Gangås of SNO told newspaper Nationen.
“We were given the assignment, arranged the helicopter and were finished within 10 minutes,” Gangås said.
Local mayors in Tolga, Tynset and Rendalen had sought the killings after wolves were blamed for local attacks on free-grazing sheep and reindeer last summer and earlier this autumn.
Acting ahead of the hunt
The shootings came just a week-and-a-half before licensed hunting of wolves can begin. One local sheep rancher, Gaute Ingebrigtsen, told Nationen that he was glad the state handled the hunt from the air, since the area lacks roads and conventional hunting would have been difficult after heavy snowfall.
In another case disclosed this week by the government ministry in charge of climate and the environment, a wolf registered as “genetically valuable” was marked, drugged and moved by helicopter from an area in northern Hedmark to a preservation area in a so-called “wolf zone.” State officials feared it could be killed in licensed hunting.
DNA testing on the wolf that had been marked indicated it had wandered into Norway from Finland and possibly Russia. Norway and Sweden have an agreement to protect such wolves to secure the survival of the species at a time of too much inbreeding.
Center Party prefers killing wolves
“It’s important for the long-term survival of wolves in Norway that genetically valuable wolves from Finland and Russia establish themselves in Scandinavia,” stated Environment Minister Ola Elvestuen in a press release this week. “By moving and marking the wolf, it will have a better chance of being shielded from hunting.”
The Finnish or Russian wolf may have been responsible for attacking reindeer in northern Hedmark, with Elvestuen noting that moving it can also ward off further damage to commercial reindeer herds in the area.
Center Party politicians, whose farming and rural constituency doesn’t want to protect wolves or other predators in nature, challenged Elvestuen over the move. When he defended it as a means of controlling the wolf population, Emilie Enger Mehl, a Member of Parliament for the Center Party, retorted that “the fastest way (to control the wolf population) is to pull the trigger on a rifle, so that the wolf would have fallen over dead.”