This winter’s highly controversial wolf hunt has been postponed for at least another two weeks, and perhaps indefinitely, after the Oslo County Court heard arguments for and against it late this week. A ruling isn’t due until January 29 at the earliest, just two weeks before the hunt is due to end.
“If we can’t hunt these animals, we’ll see a major spread of wolves during the summer grazing season,” the leader of the farmers’ organization Østfold Bondelag, Ole Kristian Bergerud, complained to state broadcaster NRK. He and other sheep farmers and landowners want to limit Norway’s wolf population to the fewest possible.
Conservationsts and animal rights activists, however, want to protect the once-nearly extinct wolves. Organizations including WWF, NOAH and Foreningen for Våre Rovdyr (Association for Our Predators) thus sued to halt the hunt that had been approved by state and local authorities.
As many as 25 wolves in four packs were targeted for the hunt due to run from January 1 to February 15. Opponents to the hunt are especially angry that wolves roaming in some zones meant to protect them were also targeted, and alleged that at least one wolf was chased out of a zone and shot.
Another such lawsuit is also proceeding through the system, prompting the activists to seek an injunction to the licensed hunt as well, since they involve the same issues.
The government’s Climate and Environment Ministry had decided in December that four packs known as the Hornmoen, Rømskog, Borgrangen and Slettås could be killed off, prompting the actvists to claim the ministry’s licensing was invalid. They succeeded in winning an injunction that temporarily halted the hunt just before New Year, with NOAH’s leader Siri Martinsen testifying in court again this week that “the laws meant to protect threatened wildlife don’t do that.” Wolves can be shot, she claims, even though they’re a protected species.
The current legal battle is the latest in years of conflicts between wildlife conservationists and both hunters and farmers who claim predators threaten their free-grazing livestock.