Norway has approved plans authorizing the “mass slaughter” of its endangered wolves in order to appease sheep farmers, a move which environmentalists say will be disastrous for its dwindling wolf population.
The Guardian reports that the controversial plan was approved on Friday to issue 47 hunting permits for the wolves. Furthermore, 24 of the wolves will be shot on land that has been designated as wolf habitat.
Animal and environmental organizations around the world are condemning the move, calling the decision to issue hunting licenses to kill off the majority of Norway’s remaining wolves a massacre.
“It is unbelievable that the department with open eyes can decide to shoot 47 wolves of a population of just 65-68 animals,” Silje Lundberg, the interim leader of Naturvernforbundet, Norway’s largest environmental organization, told the U.K.’s Express.
“It is terrifying that such most extremist attitudes are dictating [Norway’s] wildlife politics.”
Livestock are left to roam in fields in Norway without supervision, and local wolf packs are automatically blamed for any missing animals.
Lundberg says that the endangered wolves should be protected, not hunted.
“The wolf population is already very small and critically endangered. To eradicate 70 per cent of such a vulnerable species is shocking.”
In addition, one of the packs has been in the area since the winter of 2011/2012 and has not attacked a single farm animal in that time.
The hunting licenses will allow for the extermination of three wolf packs, including small pups. The wolves will be shot this winter despite the fact that they are not a threat to humans.
Yahoo reports that farmers in Norway often complain about wolves attacking their sheep.
“We find the reason (for the killing) justified and intelligent, especially the potential damage that these wolf packs represent to farming,” said Erling Aas-Eng, a regional official for a farming association in Norway.
Others claim that dogs and people are more of a threat to livestock in Norway than the endangered wolves.
The wolf population in Norway currently has seven packs with one reproductive couple, which is “above the national population target” according to the Norwegian environmental agency, since each pack will probably deliver a new litter every year.
The Norwegian parliament agreed in June to limit the number of litters born each year to between four and six per year. This is designed to allow at least three in Norway’s wolf populations and the rest in wolf packs that cross the borders between Norway and neighboring countries.
Wild Sweden estimates that there are currently about 415 Wolves in Sweden and Norway, of which the vast majority are in Sweden. Packs are generally made up of family groups of one set of parents and their pups. Older pups sometimes remain with their packs after new litters are born, sometimes serving as babysitters of their younger siblings.
Wolves in Norway and Sweden typically hunt rabbits, moose, reindeer, and deer, though they sometimes hunt livestock. They typically prefer to live in forests away from humans.
World Wildlife Fund’s Norway chapter, WWF Norge, has responded with outrage to the proposal.
“This is pure mass slaughter,” Nina Jensen, the head of WWF Norge, told The Guardian. “We haven’t seen anything like this in almost 100 years, when the policy at the time was to exterminate all the big predators.”
Jensen says that losses to farmers from wolves had been minimal and have been greatly exaggerated. Furthermore, she says that settlements by the Norwegian parliament in 2004 and 2011 specifically stipulated that predator populations must be allowed to co-exist with livestock.
“Shooting 70% of the wolf population is not worthy of a nation claiming to be championing environmental causes. People all over the country, and outside its borders, are now reacting.”
Phys.org reports that only 65-68 wolves remain in Norway, although their numbers are probably higher at the moment due to an unknown number of pups born in the spring. Another 25 or so wolves have been observed in the region bordering Sweden.
Competition for the licenses is likely to be fierce, as hunting is a popular sport in Norway. Last year, more than 11,000 hunters applied for permits to hunt wolves, though only 16 permits were issued last year.
Environmental groups say that the number of wolves Norway is allowing to be killed this year is greater than in any year since 1911.
Wolves are listed as “critically endangered” on the 2015 list of endangered animals in Norway.
[Featured Image by Holly Kuchera/Shutterstock]