A petition to save Norway's wolves is moving toward making a difference. A Norwegian wolf advocate told me that after garnering more than 35,000 signatures using social media, the petition has been submitted to government officials, including the head of the Committee for Energy and Environment who belongs to a political party that is positive toward predators. The advocate said that the government plans to evaluate its policy on predators and the petition will be part of that evaluation.
Let's hope so.
Under current policy, Norway's wolves face extinction. More than a century ago, the country had 1,000 wolves; Now 28 to 32 survive. The organization behind the petition, Bygdefolk for Rovdyr, states that the animals are being killed even while 80 percent of Norwegians want wolves in their country.
As the wolf population has shrunk, so has the area where current policy allows wolves. Predator Alliance Norway reported in September of 2014 that the designated wolf zone — where the animals can breed — now includes only five percent of the country. This may not be enough room for the wolves to roam and establish territories. "And every wolf putting their paw outside the designated wolf zone is shot," said an alliance spokesperson.
Policy states that only three females are allowed to have pups every year. Minimizing reproduction while allowing hunting has lead to inbreeding among wolves that may make the population genetically unsustainable. George Monbiot reported in The Guardian that an alpha female had a pup with her son. Her alpha male was probably poached and she couldn't find an unrelated male to mate with.
Along with government policy, poaching threatens wolves. In April of 2014, according to the online newspaper NEWSinENGLISH.no, twelve people were arrested in Hedmark county — within the wolf zone — for poaching wolves. The poachers face up to eleven years in prison. (Keep that policy.) Researchers tracking Norway's wolf population sounded the alarm after noticing several breeding pairs had disappeared. A report released by Hedmark University College estimated every second wolf is illegally shot.
An additional fifty wolves travel back and forth between Norway and Sweden. A Norwegian wolf advocate told me that the government has wanted to claim those fifty travelers along with their thirty residents. With that artificially inflated census, more resident wolves could be killed.
Along with government policy and poaching, sheep producers threaten the few remaining wolves. Norway's sheep producers cry — as do ranchers everywhere — that wolves kill their sheep and harm their profits. Monbiot reported in 2012 that, "Every year some two million sheep are released into forests and mountains of Norway without supervision. Around 1,500 of them — as a maximum estimate — are killed by wolves. The farmers are richly compensated for these killings." He adds that about 100,000 other sheep die each year with no help from wolves.
Norway's current policy is to wage a war of attrition against wolves. Here's hoping that the petition with 35,000 signatures helps create a plan that gives these essential animals the protection and space they deserve.
Rick Lamplugh is a wolf advocate and author of the Amazon bestseller "In the Temple of Wolves: A Winter's Immersion in Wild Yellowstone." Available as eBook or paperback. Or as a signed copy from the author.