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In a move that is baffling many, from environmentalists to its own people, the Norwegian government has announced a plan to cull two-thirds of its wild wolf population. At last count, that population is currently at just 68.

The government is justifying the cull – the largest planned since 1911 – by claiming it is predator population control to minimize harm done to farmers’ sheep. However, environmental groups, including WWF Norway, have argued that the damage caused by such a small population is minimal and the government's response is out of proportion and motivated by other factors.

"We haven't seen anything like this in almost 100 years, when the policy at the time was to exterminate all the big predators," said Nina Jensen, head of the Norwegian branch of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), in a statement.

There is definitely an appetite for hunting in Norway. Last year, an unprecedented 11,000 people applied for the 16 licenses issued to legally hunt the wolves. That’s 700 applicants for each license. The government has been accused of raising the number of licenses issued this year due to popular demand.

The suggested plan is for 24 wolves to be shot within a part of Norway that is designated wolf habitat, with another 23 wolves to be killed across other parts of the country, totaling 47 of the estimated 68. Norway's environmental groups say the new legal hunting limit is beyond what the current wild wolf population can stand.

It was only last year wolves were officially listed as “critically endangered” in Norway.

“Shooting 70% of the wolf population is not worthy of a nation claiming to be championing environmental causes,” Jensen said. “People all over the country, and outside its borders, are now reacting.”

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