The common fear of large carnivores is one of the core challenges of the management of these species in Finland. According to the latest study examining the attitudes of Finnish citizens towards wildlife, the perception of fear seems to be increasing. Similar surveys have been conducted on a regular basis since the 2010s. Yet, the variation of emotions among the respondents and between population segments poses a challenge to draw any distinct conclusions. The media and internet services present citizens with information and their views on wolves. These services both contribute to their emotions and the atmosphere in the discussions.
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How do the Finnish citizens feel about large carnivores?
According to the study, people fear bears and ticks more than wolves, but they also perceive wild boars as dangerous. The wolf is a concern for many, but some respondents perceive it as the greatest risk factor for their own child or domestic and companion animals. On the other hand, coming across a large carnivore can also be an exciting experience. 19% of the respondents estimated that encountering a wolf could be both frightening and fascinating. Also in other parts of Europe, the perception of wolves shows interesting similarities.
‘Due to their big size and socioeconomic impact on the local society, large carnivores are widely discussed and can provoke even heated disputes. The theme evokes strong emotions and positional contradictions. The personal emotions are based on experiences and the level of knowledge. Wolves can be perceived as strong, unpredictable and dangerous animals or as having lost their fear of humans. People fear wolves especially if they feel that the situation is out of their control,’ says Jani Pellikka. Pellikka is a senior scientists at the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke). ‘On the other hand, the fact that wolves mate for life and feel affection towards the members of their pack can be seen as features that are also appreciated as human virtues.’
LIFE BOREAL WOLF mitigates the concerns by spreading information and developing new tools to alleviate fear
The LIFE BOREAL WOLF project (2019-2025) aims at working towards a better human coexistence with wolves. Understanding the behaviour of wolves and keeping oneself updated on the wolf territories is a good basis for avoiding confrontations with wolves and for assessing the risks associated with them. People can unknowingly attract a wolf in their garden, for example, by leaving dead carcasses or a pet in the premises. The project is delivering info sheets, videos and other guiding material on wolves in Finnish, Swedish and English (with an open assess) on the following themes:
- Description of the wolves as a species
- Information on what research is producing on wolves in Finland
- The roles and responsibilities of all parts within the management network
- How to confront large carnivores when sighted
- Guidance on how to seek for help and advice
- Useful tips and practical guidance on how to avoid damages caused by wolves.