Under Norway’s endangered predator laws, only 15 lone wolves proved to pose a threat to livestock
Tone Sutterud and Elisabeth Ulven, Oslo
Tuesday 20 December 2016 16.56 GMT
First published on Tuesday 20 December 201616.56 GMT
The Norwegian government has issued a last-minute reprieve for 32 of the 47 wolves that had been earmarked for a cull to protect sheep flocks.
The plans to kill two-thirds of the country’s wolves caused outrage among conservationists at home and abroad when they were announced by local predator management boards in September, with warnings the cull would be disastrous for the species.
But on Tuesday Vidar Helgesen, minister of climate and the environment, refused to sanction the cull, saying lawyers at the justice ministry had concluded it would contravene domestic biodiversity legislation and the international Bern convention.
The laws state that culling of endangered predators – there are an estimated 68 wolves in Norway – can only be granted if there is a satisfactorily documented risk of damage to livestock. This proved not to have been the case with 32 wolves from four packs in the county of Hedmark.
The other 15 animals which will still be hunted are young lone wolves which range over greater distances and are more prone to killing livestock, and environmental groups have not objected to these being culled.
“This is a great day and the best Christmas present you could wish for,” said Nina Jensen of WWF Norway. “At last the government has shown that Norwegian wolves also have protection in law. It is a protected species that is critically endangered and has a natural place in Norwegian fauna.”
Today’s pardon for the 32 wolves caused surprise among both the conservation and hunting lobbies, as the government had been expected to support the cull. More than 300 hunters who were cooperating with the police and the county governor to prepare for the hunt, due to start on 2 January, now have to put away their guns.