Can EU countries kill wolves like Norway and Sweden?

The wolf does not belong Scandinavia, if we believe a small but influential group of people. It is regarded as a pest, a species that should be black-listed and even exterminated. In fact, the Scandinavian wolf population is facing severe pressure from hunting. And hunting wolves is something that the EU has very strict regulations for. Under very specific conditions, it is legal to shoot a wolf in any country. In most cases, these conditions do not even closely meet the requirements. Then why do Norway and Sweden continue killing wolves? And how likely is it that EU countries, wanting to follow this hunting regime, will find a way to kill wolves as well?

Please also read: Why is Norway killing wolves?

The modern mythical wolf

We all know the old story tales on Little Red Riding Hood, her Grandmother and the Big Bad Wolf. Fortunately, people also realise that the wolf is not such a bloodthirsty animal. However, a modernised version of the mythical wolf has been put forward by hunters, farmers and politicians to create anxiety. It is the wolf that eats young boys and girls on their way to school, playing in the forest, or in the kindergartens. A new version of the Big Bad Wolf, which is used as a political argument and has nothing to do with actual wolves anymore.

Country roads take them home

Wolves can wander up to 70 kilometres a day, when searching for a new territory. As an efficient hunter, taking the most easy route is a clever choice when doing so. And the most easy routes are human-made paved or gravel roads, of course. This is also the reason why you have a good chance of finding wolf scats on the road, when you find yourself in a wolf territory. But following roads means that wolves eventually also end up near human settlement. On purpose? Not really, they just want to find a suitable place to start a new family. Humans are simply not interesting for wolves, neither are children.

German and Scandinavian populations

Nevertheless, there is a demand to implement a comparable hunting regime to the Finnish, Norwegians and Swedes in EU countries. Finnish wolves suffer from human fear, based on fake news. Norway is currently killing half of its wolf population, despite international protests. Also Sweden allowed annual killing of individuals in the past, and is currently looking for a better solution. Nevertheless, the several thousand registered Swedish hunters can kill 22 wolves this season. The German wolf population is already bigger than the Scandinavian one. So German wolf-opponents want the annual culling of wolves also on German soil.

Favourable conservation status

Because of the strictly protected status of wolves in the EU, one of the critical issues is the favourable conservation status. This status means that the population is large enough to ensure survival over a long period of time. This is simply not the case in Germany (or other countries demanding the killing). And if the status is reached, killing will never exterminate the wolf, as Scandinavia shows. It would increase the chances of illegal poaching, which would threaten the conservation status even more. So why does Scandinavia continue the killing of wolves?

Exemptions and variable interpretations

Sweden allows wolf killing, even outside the hunting season, when wolves pose a risk to humans and livestock. In addition, the country determined a favourable population size at 300 individuals. Furthermore, traditional reindeer herding of the Sami resulted in wolf-free zones in Lapland, a major area of Scandinavia. Norway counts also some Swedish wolves when setting hunting quota. These quota are thus always too high and pose a big risk to extermination of Norwegian wolves. Even a lawsuit in Oslo was issued to stop the hunt, without effect.

Can countries start killing?

The simple answer is no. Hunters, farmers and politicians will continue to create panic and use the wolf as a political tool to pressure for hunting. The political wolf will further divide rural versus urban people, traditions versus modernisation, and hunters versus environmental protectors. The only way forward is for people to adapt to the new conditions, to ensure a sustainable coexistence. This means, implementing proper livestock protection measures, while promoting proper education and training.


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One thought on “Can EU countries kill wolves like Norway and Sweden?

  1. Just to make things clear, this years wolf hunt in Sweden is already accomplished. 15 wolves were shot of the 22 that were allowed. Several were severely affected by mange and in some territories the hunters had a hard time tracking down any wolves at all.
    The coming season the wolf hunt in Sweden is cancelled by the Epa since the wolf population is declining for the third year in a row.

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Join more 100+ forest experts demanding a radical change in German forestry management.

Sign the Open Letter to the German Federal Minister of Forestry and Agriculture

Open Letter to the German Ministry of Food and Agriculture

Federal Ministry of
Food and Agriculture
Minister Julia Klöckner
11055 Berlin

Dear Minister Klöckner,

The current situation of the forest in Germany is worrying. It is a forest crisis not only driven by climate change. The current crisis management of the forestry industry is backward-looking and harmful to the forest. The declaration announced at the meeting of ministers in Moritzburg can be described as a `Moritzburg declaration of bankruptcy´. We call on the state forestry industry to, instead of expensive rushed actions, finally carry out an expert analysis of its own work and to involve all stakeholders in this process. What is called for is a consistent departure from plantation forestry and a radical shift towards a management that treats the forest as an ecosystem and no longer as a wood factory.

On 1stAugust 2019, five forestry ministers of CDU and CSU-led states adopted a so-called “master plan” for the forest in Germany, which was affected by heat, bark beetles, fire and drought. As of 2020, the federal government is to make 800 million euros available as a reaction to climate change. This money is to be used to repair the damage caused, reforest the damaged areas and carry out `climate-adapted´ forest conversion – including the use of non-native tree species that have not yet been cultivated in the forest. Research should therefore focus on on tree species suitability and forest plant breeding in the future – keyword: `Climate-adapted forest of the future 2100´.

Remarkably, the damage caused primarily by the extreme drought of 2018 is attributed solely to climate change. Climate change is meeting a forest that is systemically ill due to the planting of non-native tree species, species poverty, monocultures, uniform structure, average low age, mechanical soil compaction, drainage etc. A healthy, resistant forest would look differently! The master plan emphasizes: sustainable, multifunctional and `active´ forest management remains indispensable – and thereby means that its unnatural state cannot be changed. Reference is made to the `carbon storage and substitution effects´ of wood products. The use of wood, e.g. in the construction industry, should be increased and thus the demand for wood should be further fueled – while knowing that the forest in Germany already cannot meet this demand. In fact, forest owners are suffering from poor timber prices due to an oversupply of trunk wood on the world market.

All these demands make clear: the current forestry strategy, which has been practiced for decades, should not change in principle. The concept is simple: cut down trees – plant trees. At best, the `design´ of the future artificial forests consisting of perfectly calculated tree species mixtures, that are believed to survive climate change without damages, can be changed. In all seriousness, the intention is to continue selling the public a so-called `future strategy´ to save the forest. This strategy seamlessly follows the model of a wood factory, that is met with general rejection and must be regarded as a failure in view of the coniferous plantations that are currently collapsing on a large scale. An essential part of the forests that have currently died is exactly the part that was reestablished in 1947 as coniferous monocultures on a much larger area than today. There is only one difference to the situation at the time: considerable amounts of money are to be made available from taxes for forest owners this time.

Climate change is progressing, and this, without a doubt, has massive impacts on all terrestrial ecosystems, including forests. To pretend that the last two years of drought alone caused the disaster is too cheap. On closer inspection, the disaster is also the result of decades of a forestry focused on conifers – in a country that was once naturally dominated by mixed deciduous forests. People do not like to admit that for more than 200 years they have relied on the wrong species of commercial tree (spruce) and have also created artificial, ecologically highly unstable and thus high-risk forest ecosystems. A whole branch of business has become dependent on coniferous wood. And now the German coniferous timber industry is on the verge of bankruptcy.

It would only have been honest and also a sign of political greatness if you and the forestry ministers in Moritzburg had declared: Yes, our forestry industry has made mistakes in the past, and yes, we are ready for a relentless analysis that takes into account not only purely silvicultural, but also forest-ecological aspects. Instead, you have confined yourselves to pre-stamped excuses that are already familiar to everyone and that lack any self-critical reflection.

Clear is: We finally need resting periods for the forest in Germany, which has been exploited for centuries. We need a new, ecologically oriented concept for future forest – not a hectic `forest conversion´, but simply forest development closer towards nature. This gives the forest as an ecosystem the necessary leeway to self-regulate and react to the emerging environmental changes. We need a systemic forest management that is no less profitable than the present one, but must be substantially more stable and resistant to foreseeable environmental changes. The aid for forest owners that all citizens are now required to pay through their taxes is only politically justified in the interest of common good, if the forests of the future that are being promoted by it, do not end up in the next disaster, some of which is produced by the forest management itself.

That is why the signatories request from the the Federal Government, and in particular you, Mrs Klöckner, a master plan worthy of the name:

On disaster areas (mainly in public forests!) reestablishment through natural forest development (ecological succession), among other things with pioneer tree species, is to be brought about. In private forests, ecological succession for reestablishment must be purposefully promoted. Larger bare areas should be planted with a maximum of 400 to 600 large plants of native species per hectare in order to permit ecological succession parallelly.
To promote ecological succession, the areas should no longer be completely and mechanically cleared; as much wood as possible should be left in the stand (to promote optimum soil and germ bed formation, soil moisture storage and natural protection against browsing). In private forests, the abandonment of use in disaster areas should be specifically promoted for ecological reasons and in order to relieve the burden on the timber market.

Regarding the promotion of reestablishment plantings in private forests: priority for native tree species (of regional origin); choose wide planting distances in order to leave enough space for the development of pioneer species. For the forests of the future: Minimize thinning (low-input principle), build up stocks through targeted development towards old thick trees, protect the inner forest climate / promote self-cooling function (should have highest priority due to rapidly progressing climate change!), prohibit heavy machinery, refrain from further road construction and expansion, permit and promote natural self-regulatory development processes in the cultivated forest and on (larger) separate areas in the sense of an compound system; drastically reduce the density of ungulate game (reform of hunting laws).

Like in the field of organic agriculture, which has been established since the 1980s, the crisis of our forests should be the reason today to transform at least two existing forestry-related universities. They should be turned into universities for interdisciplinary forest ecosystem management. This is a contribution not only to the further development of forestry science and silviculture in Germany, but also of global importance! The goal must be to produce wood through largely natural forest production and to start with it here in Germany, the birthplace of forestry.


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