And then there were none: an Agatha Christie Novel and one of her most famous at that. The story unfolds on a remote Island, to which guests are mysteriously invited and all of them under false pretences. One by one, they are killed. But, unfortunately, or perhaps thankfully, I am not about to give an in-depth synopsis of said novel. I merely used the title as I felt it was fitting for a subject that has been in the headlines recently. But this story does not happen on a small Island, but in a country, where a small population of animals are destined to be picked off one by one, until none remain. But our killers are not so mysterious, in fact, they are plain as day.Our story has already begun and is set to a Norwegian backdrop. And our characters that are being picked off? Well, they come in canine form: wolves.
That’s right, it is wolf hunting season and it all commenced on the 1st of October, destined to continue until the 31st of March. Norway’s wolf population currently experiences strong management in order to ensure that their numbers do not become too great. In total, there are thought to be approximately 30 wolves in Norway, and now a cull is underway. This cull is allowing the legal killing of 16 of their wolves, which is around half the current population.
But the cull has proved to be a very popular choice indeed. So popular in fact, that over 11,000 people have signed up for the chance to be involved. So, that makes 11,000 people, after just 16 wolves. Therefore, the odds work out at 763 humans to 1 wolf. For the wolves, things are not looking so good. But this is not the first time that Norway has allowed the hunting of it’s wolf population. In both 2000 and 2005, the government ordered a culling of it’s wolves, with one cull asking for the killing of 5 wolves out of the 18-25 that were in existence in the country.
But what is the reason behind this cull? Is it just for the thrill of the hunt, or is there a solid basis for such an act? Well, sheep are thought to make up around 90% of Norway’s farming territory, so the hunt is justified as a means of protecting livestock. But Norway is not the only country that has enforced such culls, with France ordering a cull after 8000 sheep were taken by wolves. Sweden momentarily joined in the activity when a small number of wolves were seen hunting near populated areas.
Although the wolf is the most popular prize among hunters in Norway, the Norwegian brown bear comes in a close second, with around 10,000 registered to hunt 18 of the bears from this year into next. The apparent blood thirst of hunters has also increased, with under 10,000 people applying to hunt wolves between 2013 and 2014. Hunting is known to be a popular hobby in Norway with 200,000 people who are registered hunters, many of whom receive automatic notifications when licenses to cull are issued.
So what do we know of the Norwegian wolves? Well, the main wolf pack is based in the south-east of the country, where they have a designated habitat. However, individuals are known to roam to other, undesignated areas of the country, putting them at increased risk. However, should the wolves find themselves in Sweden, Russia or Finland, they may want to remain, as these countries are more conscious about the sustainability of their fragile animal populations. Now, you may be surprised to hear that despite these cull licenses, Norway would like to have larger populations of both bears and wolves. Three breeding female wolves are allowed within the designated habitat and, as you may be able to guess, this is far too little if Norway is to gain a sustainable population of these predators.
However, it is not just the licensed culls that are posing a problem. It is suspected by some conservationists and wolf experts that such culls are not required, as predator populations are already controlled by illegal hunting. Obviously, this is a huge issue. Without proper checks on illegal hunting it is difficult to know the exact population of the wolves, as we do not know how many the poachers are killing. If culls are allowed whilst illegal hunting is also taking place, the countries wolf populations could suffer drastically. So much so, that if the country is not careful they could lose their wolves one by one, until, eventually, there are none that remain.
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