WWF won a long-sought victory this week when an appeals court ruled that two out of three wolf hunts authorized by state officials in 2017 and 2018 were invalid. The hunts involved wolves belonging to managed and protected packs, while a third hunt won court approval.
The hunt allowed in the winter of 2017-2018, when snow makes it easiest to track wolves down, locally authorized the shooting of 50 wolves. Government officials pared that down to 42. A total of 28 wolves were actually shot, with WWF arguing that the number authorized was far too high and that the hunt threatened survival of the species.
The court rejected that argument and upheld the hunt of roaming wolves outside protected zones. It agreed, however, that the hunts in the so-called Julussa and Osdalen grounds were invalid “because of errors in the application of the law.” The appeals court ruled that allowing a hunt out of consideration for local district policy was not sufficiently concrete.
‘Sorely needed victory’
“This is a sorely needed victory for the wolf and for nature,” declared the acting head of WWF in Norway, Karoline Andaur. “We have to take care of our threatened wild species. We are very glad the court declares that Norway has a responsibility to protect the southern Scandinavian wolf population.”
Norway’s farm lobby immediately demanded that the state appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. Norges Bondelag, the organization that represents farmers who view wolves as a threat to their free-grazing livestock, complained that the state, according to the court, had not succeeded in relaying the public interests at stake, and how the wolves threatened the local population.
“Even if the ruling stands, the government must demand a new evaluation of all hunting grounds so that local authorties can have adequate reason for their decisions,” Bondelag leader Lars Petter Bartnes stated in a press release. He was at least “satisfied” that Norway’s wildlife management, according to the court, doesn’t threatened the survival of the species.
Farmers’ traditions more ‘important’ than wolves
“It’s important to maintain free grazing in these areas,” Bartnes said, to maintain farmers’ quality of life and protect their livestock from predators.
New Climate- and Environment Minister Sveinung Rotevatn said it was “too early” to say whether the government will appeal to the Supreme Court, calling the appeals court decision “long and thorough” and at odds with the county court’s ruling. The case marks one of his first major challenges, as the conflict between conservationists and farmers continues.