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Wolves in Norway – a welcome beast, or just a burden?
En engelsk debattartikkel om ulver i Norge.
Makt og politikk
I am going to write about wolves in Norway and how we are going to keep the few packs of wolves that we have in our country. Do we really need wolves or are they just a burden?
The gray wolf is the one most normal species of the wolf. In the wild the wolf usually becomes four to eight years old. In captivity it could become as much as sixteen years old. It is claimed that wolves are forest renovators since they primarily take weak and sick animals and therefore keep the population of prey in good shape.
The total number of wolves in the world today is estimated to around 150 000 – 200 000. As such, the wolf is not an endangered species, but a few local populations are probably threatened. The Nordic countries probably have around 185-320 individual wolves, most of which are in located in Finland. The total number of wolves in Norway in 2010 was 27-32 according to the Norwegian Wildlife Union (”Norges naturvernforbund”).
The Norwegian population of wolves is generally considered to be endangered. There are many different kinds of wolves in Norway, the most common being the “grey wolf”. It is considered that the Norwegian and Swedish wolves belong to the same tribe, and regarded as endangered.
A survey published by the scientific journal Proceedings of the Royal Society in 2011 suggests that illegal hunting is responsible for 50% of wolf deaths in Norway and Sweden.
What are the arguments in favour of keeping a tribe of wolves in Norway (and Sweden)?
It should be considered a common responsibility to maintain a diversity of species in the world. Nature does not imply a polished and perfect park that fits the needs of humans, but instead wildlife should be preserved according to its own needs and natural ways of life.
Many farmers do not want wolves around because they fear for their livestock, sheep in particular. Wolves belong to the Norwegian fauna, but sheep do not. When sheep wander freely around, they cause damage to the Norwegian fauna. In addition, sheep ruin the livelihood for the Norwegian mountain fox. If sheep were kept behind fences, they would be less likely to be killed by wolves. I the farmers had cared more for their livestock, they should have done more to protect their animals from other dangers, for example put up fences to shield sheep from traffic.
A total of 40000 sheep are allegedly killed annually in Norway by predators (wolves). The number of sheep killed is probably substantially lower, since a farmer does not need to prove that a sheep was actually killed by a wolf in order to get financial compensation. In addition, 100000 sheep die from other causes, such as untreated diseases and road accidents. This is because sheep are left to roam free in the wilderness without any shepherd watching over them. In Norway, one of the richest countries in the world, having a shepherd to watch over sheep is considered too expensive.
More sheep are killed by lynx and bear, but those events do not make it into newspaper headlines. Animals killed by wolves are much rarer events which deserves newspaper mentioning. Moreover, there has not been reported a single case of a wolf killing a human in Norway. Actually, criminals commit far more murders than wolves!
Wolves are not a danger to nature, but may be considered a small threat to other animals (especially unprotected livestock), and therefore also the farmer’s wallets. If the wolf is extinct, there may be an imbalance in nature, with too many deer as a result. Then, humans will just need to keep down another species, the deer.
So, are there any arguments against the wolf?
It can be argued that the wolf is of little importance to humans, in contrast to sheep, that provide both food and clothing. Sheep that are slain by wolves do not deserve to be killed in a brutal fashion, and should instead be protected.
The wolves that we observe in Norway are not really Norwegian – the Norwegian tribe of wolves was actually extinct many years ago. Since the existing tribe is not Norwegian, it should not be our responsibility to protect it. Since Sweden has proven to be more successful at keeping their tribe of wolves, they could be given responsibility of the total Norwegian and Swedish wolves.
A final argument is one of consistency: since we already kill a lot of animals for food and fur, why should wolves “go free”? In nature, larger animals prey on the smaller ones, and it could only be natural for humans to hunt wolves.
My personal opinion is that the wolves should be living in Norway without someone hunting them just because they are animals and follow their instincts. The wolves have an equal right to exist as any other species.
Lise Myhre (2011): Nemi, farlig farvann. Cappelen.
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