Around 130 hunters in eastern Norway spent New Year’s Day stalking and quickly killing two more wolves, after conservationists failed to obtain an injunction to halt it. One legal expert has warned that the highly controversial wolf hunt exposes Norway to international boycotts of export products and services.
Norway’s wolf hunts, demanded mostly by farmers determined to allow their livestock to graze freely, have always been controversial. This one is especially so, because it allows hunting in an area that had been set aside as a protected zone where wolves would be allowed to exist.
Government officials’ decision to allow the hunt over the protests of environmental and wildlife conservationists prompted activists just over the border in Sweden to try to sabotage it on Tuesday. A group called “Hunt Saboteurs Sweden” announced that they had localized the hunters and knew where they’d be gathering.
Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that police in and around the popular ski resort of Trysil in Hedmark County, where the hunt took place, responded by banning the activists from the municipality. The activists didn’t manage to mobilize or defy the police order before the hunters quickly shot one wolf and then another shortly thereafter. The hunt began at 10am on New Year’s Day and ended just a few hours later, under winter conditions that had allowed hunters to follow wolf tracks in the snow.
“With so many hunters in an area where we knew the wolves were, it went fast,” Ole Martin Norderhaug, spokesman for the organization Trysil Fellesforening that organized and carried out the hunt, told NRK.
That’s exactly what Siri Martinsen, leader of the animal rights organization NOAH in Oslo, had feared. Her group had tried to win an injunction to block the hunt but officials refused to grant it until the appeal could be heard in court on January 3. Since the government had authorized the hunt from January 1, the hunters were thus keen to act while they could.
“It’s tragic that the wolves have been shot before the court could even evaluate whether the hunt should be stopped pending a court evaluation of its legality,” Martinsen told NRK. NOAH believes the government is violating international regulations against hunting in established wolf zones.
“The (government) decision is unprecedented,” NOAH wrote on its website (external link) right after the hunt was authorized in December. “It is the first time after the wolf returned to Norway in the 1990s that a whole pack shall be killed inside the zone.” NOAH added that it “strongly condemns” the Norwegian government’s decision, claiming it places Norway “among the worst countries when it comes to the protection of wild species.”
Martinsen has won support from Mads Andenæs, a professor at the University of Oslo’s Law School who also questions the international legality of the hunt. He told NRK, which led off its nightly national newscast with the wolf hunt on January 1, that the controversy around the hunt subjects Norway to possible boycotts of export goods and services. Andenæs expects international pressure on Norway to stop its ongoing hunts of a predator that remains an endangered species.
Norderhaug of the hunting group in Trysil, meanwhile, told NRK that the hunt was suspended right after the second wolf was shot, but only because “we don’t know if there are more wolves in the zone.” He said no new hunt would begin “until we find tracks indicating that more wolves are in the area.”