Environmental groups criticise plan that will allow hunters to shoot up to 47 of an estimated 68 wolves living in wilderness
Norway is planning to cull more than two-thirds of its remaining wolves in a step that environmental groups say will be disastrous for the dwindling members of the species in the wild.
There are estimated to be about 68 wolves remaining in the wilderness areas of Norway, concentrated in the south-east of the country, but under controversial plans approved on Friday as many as 47 of these will be shot.
Hunting is a popular sport in the country. Last year more than 11,000 hunters applied for licences to shoot 16 wolves, a ratio of more than 700 applicants to each licence.
The government has justified this year’s planned cull – the biggest in more than a century – on the basis of harm done to sheep flocks by the predators. Environmental groups dispute this, saying the real damage is minimal and the response out of all proportion.
The government did not reply to a request from the Guardian for comment.
The government has taken action to prevent illegal wolf hunting. Wolves are also an attraction for some tourists to the country. But the new legal hunting limit is beyond anything that the wild population can withstand, according to Norway’s leading green groups.
Under the arrangements, 24 wolves will be shot within the region of the country designated for wolf habitat, while another 13 will be shot in neighbouring regions and a further 10 in other areas of the country.
According to environmental groups, the number of wolves the government plans to kill this year is greater than in any year since 1911.
Nina Jensen, chief executive of WWF in Norway, said: “This is mass slaughter. We have not seen anything like this in a hundred years, back when the policy was that all large carnivores were to be eradicated.
“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.”
She said the losses to farmers from wolves had been minimal, and pointed to settlements by the Norwegian parliament in 2004 and 2011 that stipulated populations of carnivores must be allowed to co-exist with livestock.
“This decision must be stopped,” said Silje Ask Lundberg, chair of Friends of the Earth Norway. “With this decision, three out of six family groups of wolves might be shot. We are calling on the minister of environment to stop the butchering. Today, Norway should be ashamed.”