I think this is the first long (more than 10 minutes) film of the guardian that I’ve sat down and watched. I suspect the have been plenty of others that would have been of great interest to me, but they have passed me by.
The film follows the discussion and ultimate green lighting of a hunt to kill six wolves. Now as I have written in the past, while I have no desire to partake in a cull, I fully understand that there are places where this should take place.
Norway is not one of these!
Norway has, approximately, 100 wolves. This is not a large number, in fact it is tiny compared to the number of wolves that could live in Norway. Furthermore about 40 of these wolves are transient, that is is they live along the border between Norway and Sweden and cross back and forth between the two. As such this hunt targeted roughly 10% of Norway’s permanent wolves.
Now, as I stated above I personally would not wish to partake in a cull but I understand the need in places. There is not a need in Norway: Norway covers roughly 135,000 square mile, a wolf needs about 5 square miles per individual to survive. If you do this sum on 135,000 you find in theory there is space for 27000 wolves. Even assuming that 90% of the country is unsuitable for wolves (this is a vast overestimate, even accounting for all built-up areas and farmland) you still have space for 2,700 wolves. As such Norway has put the maximum number of wolves allowed to live within its borders at 2% of the carrying capacity.
I should point out that as you have seen all my estimates are vastly under what the likely full number of wolves Norway could support.
Now in the film, they switch back and forth between an avid Hunter, and a keen conservationist. The film does a good job of remaining largely unbiased between the two, however my watching of this film made me feel that this balance is not being met. Hunting is an extremely popular pastime in Norway. To a certain extent my opinion on this is essentially each to their own, however the ecosystem should be left with enough predators to operate as it would do naturally. I feel that 2% of the wolves is way too low – and the idea that governmental scientists in Norway green light a plan to kill 10% of the wolves is a black mark on their scientific method.
This film is well worth watching, it isn’t preachy and indeed despite being full of false premises by the hunting lobby they do not go out of their way to knock these down. There is not a historical presidence for wolf hunting, indeed the main hunter that is followed makes a point at one stage of the film states that the gun his father had owned has never shot a wolf – therefore it is clear that there is no no tradition of wolf hunting.
It is true that in order for wolves to live alongside humans, culls are likely to be necessary. However cull levels should be set according to real ecological science and not according to the number of wolves that are wanted to be hunted.
It should also be noted that there is now a thriving tourism business around the wolves in Norway. Occasional wolves are always likely to need to be killed if living alongside humans, however these wolves only returned about 40 years, and it is clear that they are worth a lot more alive than dead. Some countries have even put a small levy on wolf tourism, which creates a fund to pay compensation for farmers who lose livestock to the predators.
I hope that in the next few years Norway’s government change its approach, to be more in line with science, as well as bringing large amounts of money to remote parts of Norway and thereby boosting people who otherwise might not be able to make an income.