The Oslo County Court has ordered a partial halt to Norway’s latest licensed wolf hunt, which has been going on since December 1. The order, hailed as a victory for conservationists, forbids planned hunts this weekend that could have wiped out four packs roaming in the southeast.
“This was a very good decision,” Karoline Andaur, secretary general of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Norway, told state broadcaster NRK. The court order, according to legal documents, is valid “until another decision is issued by the court system.”
The state ministry in charge of climate and the enviroment had earlier upheld local authorities’ decision to shoot around 25 wolves in the four packs (known as Hornmoen, Rømskog, Bograngen and Slettås) that adhere to what were supposed to be protected zones for wolves. This winter’s hunt can therefore continue outside the zones.
WWF and several other environmental and animal rights organizations had filed suit to stop the hunt, on the grounds it was illegal and violated Norway’s international obligations to protect wolves. Conflicts over wolves have raged for decades in Norway, especially after the country’s wolf population began to rise after nearly becoming extinct.
Norwegian farmers and landowners routinely demand a reduction in Norway’s still small but growing wolf population, on the grounds that the predators threaten free-grazing sheep and other wildlife. They want to keep it at a bare minimum, which is why state officials had approved a hunt to reduce it to a lower level. The state’s permission to hunt inside the wolf zones, now blocked by the court, is valid until February 15.
The zone hunt may be reinstated if the state manages to successfully argue in favour of it. The ministry and the pro-wolf organizations are thus due to meet in court again in January.
The government minister in charge, Espen Barth Eide of the Labour Party, confirmed in a press release Thursday that the state will present oral arguments in January. He stressed that the court had not evaluated the validity of the hunt, but acted out of time pressure since the zone hunt was due to begin this weekend.