Finnish wolves suffering from culling and poaching caused by human fear

The wolf is a native species of Finland, but humans hunted it almost to extinction in the 1970’s. After it became a protected species, the Finnish wolf population has slowly grown since. Yet, at the same time poaching continued to be ever present. While trying to solve the poaching catastrophe, the Finnish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry permitted wolf culling in 2015 and 2016. The effects are simply disastrous for the wolves.

Please also read: Allowing culling increases poaching

Aiming for social acceptance

Between 2006-2010 people killed about 15 percent of the total wolf population in Finland every year. Most individuals died due to poaching. In 2014, just over 100 wolves continued to live in the country. To tackle poaching and to gain more social acceptance for wolves, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry allowed wolf culling in 2015 and 2016. Many nature conservation organisations opposed the decision without success.

The first culling season costed the lives of 17 wolves, including 3 alpha individuals. Killing alpha individuals weakens the wolf pack dramatically. Less effective group hunts increase the risk of packs falling apart. As a result, the wolves wander in search of a new place to start their own pack. Besides the 17 culled wolves, another 25 died in accidents and from derogation-based and police-controlled permits. In fact, these permits have been granted without a favourable conservation status for wolves in Finland. This actually means that Finland did not comply with EU laws.

Backfiring results failed

The Finnish authorities considered the wolf cull as a success. The population had grown slightly and surveys suggested that fewer people thought that wolf poaching was acceptable. As a result, the Ministry granted even more permits for 2016. This backfired. People killed 40 wolves in the culling season of 2016, besides the 38 that died from other reasons. The Ministry advised hunters to kill young wolves and to avoid killing alphas. Nevertheless, hunters shot a striking number of 20 alpha wolves. Killing so many alpha wolves could not be accidental. Even the Finnish authorities admitted that the 2016 wolf cull failed.

New reasons for killing wolves

The Ministry did not allow another culling season as such after that. However, the Finnish Wildlife Agency continues to grant hunting permits for derogation-based reasons. The problem is the Agency grants permits for social reasons, like human fear. A wolf apparently has to die because humans are afraid of it. In addition, police-controlled permits target those individuals that ‘might’ be dangerous. The police regards a passing wolf near a town as such, for example. Often, hunters track these wolves for days and kill them far from settlements.

Finnish Nature League’s Wolf Action Group

The Wolf Action Group investigated the permissions of all derogation-based hunting permits of 2016-2017. The results, published in a report found below, show that people did not fully use non-lethal alternatives. This means that the permits should not have been granted in the first place. In addition, their analysis also demonstrated again, that culling definitely does not increase social acceptance.

Even today, poaching is still a big issue in Finland. People continue to hunt down wolves that form no threat, including alpha individuals. We know from other examples in Europe that trying to suppress the wolf population only creates more problems. The wolf is a natural and beneficial part of the European landscape, and can help to restore balance in nature. Europe has to learn from Finland’s mistake of culling wolves. Each country should work towards a future where humans and wolves coexist. Investing in proper livestock management is thereby crucial.

This posting was guest written by Mari Nyyssölä-Kiisla, chairman of the Finnish Nature League’s Wolf Action Group.

Stay up to date on the Wilderness news, subscribe to our Newsletter!

You May Also Like

Please Leave a Comment

Sign the Open Letter to the German Ministry

Join more than 70 forest experts demanding a radical change in the German forest management system.

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.


**your signature**

Share this with your friends:

%d bloggers like this: