Heavy snow in the hills and forests of Southern Norway has made life even more challenging for deer, moose and other wildlife this winter. They struggle to find food and can also be chased, bitten and even killed by dogs, prompting local officials to impose extraordinary leash laws.
Wolves tend to be shot in Norway if they’re viewed as posing a threat to livestock or wildlife. Another two were killed just last weekend in Norway’s controversial annual wolf hunt, bringing the wolf death toll up to six so far this winter. Otherwise friendly dogs, however, can literally get away with murder when they exhibit the same instincts by chasing and attacking deer or even grazing livestock during summer.
This year’s extreme cold and snowdrifts have made wildlife even more vulnerable when dog owners take their pets with them when they head out skiing. Since early January, however, dog owners have been obliged to keep their pets on a leash, and are fined if they’re caught letting their dogs run free.
“We’ve already seen attacks on deer by dogs, with tragic results,” Knut Johansson told newspaper Dagsavisen this week. He’s in charge of regulations and services in the hills and forests of Oslo’s Nordmarka region, and welcomes the new patrols accompanied by police. “It’s natural for wolves, lynx and foxes to hunt deer,” he noted, “but dog owners should be expected to keep their dogs on a leash.”
Oslo imposed its winter leash law on January 6, just a day after similar laws went into effect all over Southern Norway. The vast majority of municipalities in regions including Agder, Telemark, Innlandet, Vestfold, Buskerud, Østfold and Akershus have imposed extraordinary leash laws this winter out of consideration for wildlife.
Dogs running free will often hunt down wildlife and attack, Edmund Randers of the Oslo Police District told Dagsavisen, “which in the worst cases will mean that wild animals will need to be shot or otherwise put out of their misery because of their wounds.”
Randers took part in a snowmobile patrol last week in Østmarka, Oslo’s eastern forest that’s popular with skiers. Similar patrols are planned for both Nordmarka and Lillomarka. Another in Indre Østfold has already fined one dog owner NOK 8,000 (nearly USD 800) after his pet attacked a deer, while a skier on the lake Nøklevann in eastern Oslo received a warning.
Dog owners are required to have control of their pets also when no leash laws are in effect, bit especially when they are, for example during the summer when sheep and cattle are out grazing in forest areas.
Johansson noted that it’s already been “a tough winter and we’re not even halfway through it.” He’s already worried about what conditions will be like in April, when hungry and weary wildlife will still face heavy, often frozen snow and ice, and have trouble finding food. That’s why it’s “extra important,” he said, that wildlife is spared unnecessary use of their energy now.