Norway’s Climate and Environment Minister Espen Barth Eide infuriated conservationists once again on Tuesday, when he extended an already controversial wolf hunt that was supposed to end on Tuesday. He allowed it to continue until March 1, but with state officials doing the hunting, not teams of private hunters.
That means Eide did not extend the licensed hunt, but wants the state to continue it since legal challenges disrupted many weeks of it. The winter hunt (timed to take advantage of following tracks in the snow and before the spring mating season) was supposed to run from January 1 to February 15. It’s been especially controversial because it targets wolves in or near some zones where they were supposed to be at least somewhat protected.
The Oslo County Court halted the hunt in January after siding with legal protests against it, but an appeals court allowed it to resume from Saturday. Activists tried to halt it, then, too, but 11 more wolves had been shot by Monday evening.
An entire wolf pack targeted as a threat to Norwegian farmers’ free-grazing sheep was wiped out over the weekend, but protests were especially flying on Tuesday since the remaining wolf packs targets roam near the border to Sweden in forested areas where there is no grazing. Member of Parliament Ola Elvestuen of the opposition Liberal Party said during a national radio debate with Eide Tuesday morning that there’s no reason to shoot them. “They feed on wild moose, not sheep,” Elvestuen said.
Wants the wolves shot ‘quickly and effectively’
Eide insisted the pack targeted would rightfully contribute to Norway’s Parliament-approved management of predators. “We want the remainder of wolves targeted (up to 28) to be felled quickly and effectively,” Eide said.
In calling on the state wildlife agency Statens Naturoppsyn to hunt the wolves, Eide also avoided having to put an extended wolf hunt out for hearing, which he admitted would have taken more time.
His decision to have the state continue the hunt was made after consultations on Tuesday with Swedish officials, since many of the wolves not targeted roam back and forth across the border between Norway and Sweden. “It’s customary good practice between two good neighbours to speak together before taking any action,” Eide said.
While farmers and Labour’s government partner, the farmer-friendly Center Party, are happy with the hunt, environmental organizations like WWF, Norway’s chapter of Friends of the Earth (Naturvernforbund) and animal rights organizaton NOAH were fuming. Elvestuen claimed Eide had “broken another barrier” by allowing the hunt to continue for two more weeks, calling Norway’s wolf packs “very thin” already. His Liberal Party, the Greens Party (MDG) and the Socialist Left party (SV) planned to ask Parliament to halt the hunt now.
“I think many people view the hunt now going on as absolutely grotesque,” Greens leader Une Bastholm told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) Tuesday afternoon. “The wolf zones we have are the only areas where wolves have some protection. This is sad for Norwegian nature.”