Data reveals there are 150 to 180 animals in Finland, where government awards licences to hunt them
Data from the Finnish National Resources Institute show there are currently only about 150 to 180 wolves living in Finland, where the government awards licences to hunt the animals.
The estimate is much lower than previous estimates, which put the population at more than 230 animals more than a year ago.It also falls a long way short of the estimated 800 individuals needed to sustain a healthy degree of genetic diversity within the population, according to the Wolf Action Group, a conservation committee within the Finnish Nature League.
This week, the campaigners will meet EU officials to discuss the census data, and the application of Europe’s Habitat Directive to the remaining wolves in Finland. Under the EU rules, wolves – which are classed as endangered – should be accorded special status with measures taken to ensure their viability, but conservationists say these rules have not been followed.
The Finnish Nature League said the culling of wolves in the last few years had worsened the animals’ prospects by killing pack leaders, family groups and dispersing packs.
The government view has been that culling was needed to minimise the encroachment of wolves on farmers and isolated communities, for their own protection as well as that of people.
A hunt targeting 50 grey wolves was approved earlier this year in Finland, when the number of wild wolves was estimated at approximately 250 animals. It was justified in part as a way of cutting down on the illegal poaching of wolves.However, the licensing has proved controversial, with green groups claiming that the hunting has been indiscriminate, and by dispersing packs without their leaders has led to an increasing danger to the human population and livestock.
Wolf hunting is viewed as a traditional method of restraining wild populations of the predator, and has been backed by the influential hunting lobbies in countries, such as Norway and Finland, with remaining wild wolf populations, as well as by farmers and people living in rural areas that have seen increased wolf activity. But conservation groups have warned that fragile populations may be in danger of collapse within a few years if current practices are allowed to continue.
In Norway a proposed cull on a much smaller wolf population, estimated at fewer than 70 animals, was scaled back after protests last year.
Wolf numbers across Europe are thought to have risen to about 12,000. They have been increasing their geographic range and even beginning to encroach on urban areas, leading to calls for increased “management” of wolf populations, including culls. Finland also shares a border with Russia, home to a large wolf population estimated at more than 50,000, making management of the local population more difficult.
Interest in traditional hunting has undergone an unexpected recent revival in the Nordic region. Seal-hunting, which has been dying out in Norway for decades after long-running campaigns against animal cruelty.- the guardian