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(AFP Photo/Jussi Nukari)
Helsinki (AFP) – Nearly one fifth of Finland’s endangered wolf population was killed in a controversial month-long cull which ended at the weekend, authorities said on Monday.
Authorities gave permits to licensed hunters to kill 46 of Finland’s estimated 250 grey wolves in a cull intended to curb illegal poaching.
“The catch was altogether 43 wolves… meaning that three permissions were left unused,” Sauli Harkonen, a senior official with the Finnish Wildlife Agency, told AFP.
The hunt was the second part of a trial cull launched in 2015 to reduce illegal poaching in rural areas. It was the first time a cull had been authorised since 2007, after the European Commission accused Finland of breaching EU protection rules on the endangered species.
Finland’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry will now assess the impact of the hunt on the wolf population and on poaching before deciding if hunting should be continued in 2017.
Environmentalists have voiced fears that culls might destroy the wolves’ genetic diversity.
“The hunt was very extensive since the ministry authorised (hunters) to kill 20 percent of Finland’s wolf population and in addition to that, there have been exceptional permits granted by the police,” said Sami Saynevirta, leader of the Finnish Nature League.
In addition to the 43 wolves killed in the cull that ended Sunday, another 25 were killed since August by hunters given special permits to track down wolves that habitually roamed near homes, or which had attacked pets or livestock.
Hunting is a widespread tradition in Finland. About 300,000 people register each year for permits, one of the highest per capita rates in Europe.
The Grey Wolf population in Finland is part of a larger Russian wolf population estimated to be around 30,000. The current population of wolves in Finland is an estimated 200; with the majority of original wolf population decimated by the 1920’s. Finland is one of the largest countries in Europe, about 130,596 sq miles with three quarters taken up by forest in which predatory animals such as bear, wolverine, lynx and wolf still exist.
The grey wolf is listed as Endangered in Finland, and the Finnish government has a wolf management plan to increase the population although met with great resistance and debate in the public and media. Reindeer husbandry and livestock farming cover a third of Finland including traditional wolf habitat. Reindeer herders and Elk hunters alike fear depredation on their livelihoods and take. In addition, much of the Finnish public still believe the wolf to be a threat to human and more specifically child safety.
The Wolf Intelligencer