From avid Norwegian hunter, Eirik Krogstad, addressing the concern of hunting denning animals:
For those of you who are not familiar with this kind of behaviour, I will explain something.
To hunt large predators is, in my opinion, okay: either for the hunt itself or to protect property from the danger they may cause sometimes. But in Norway, hunters hired by the government also locate wolverine dens up in the mountains to neutralize the female and also her babies.
The reason is: sheep farmers let millions of sheep out in the mountains and forests all over Norway for the whole summer, and naturally predators will affect this stupid tradition. Sheep are nothing but fast food for them. Easy to find and easy to kill.
Most of the sheep which are lost die due to a number of reasons. Predators included. The county can approve to neutralize single individuals, and this is mostly done by local hunters or government hunters, and in a fair way. A regular hunt which give both the predator a chance to survive and the hunters a chance to succeed.
Nothing wrong in that; but when a mother and children are regularly pulled out of the safety in their dens and put down to “protect sheep for the coming summer”, I really want to vomit.
I have nothing but the highest regards for those hunters who pursuit large predators and are successful in their hunt; but to hunt predators in their dens, I sure don’t approve of.
The above passage has been modified for grammar and leixcon usage.
In most places in North America, most sporting hunters would not even dream about touching hibernating, nesting or denning animals. While the topic concerning depredation of coyotes, foxes, bears and wolves is heavily debated, it is seldom people discuss about what to do with pups or cubs or a weaning mother. Back in the days of the bounty programs, it was not uncommon for people to cull litters mercilessly for an additional income for the household, but those days are long gone.
Coming from a Norwegian hunter touching on the topic of sheep husbandry concerning the wolverine, I cannot help but draw parallel the conflicts hunters and non-hunters have with the grazing rights of ranchers on public lands in the United States, Crown land in Canada or the reindeer area in Finland. The topic of predator control is rather interesting since public grazing is often subsidized by tax-payers; and typically ranchers and farmers don’t like it when tax-payers tell them what to do.
Although I do not claim to understand the complex dynamics between Norwegian sheep shepherds and wildlife. However, the issue in Canada and the United States is far from simple. Since livestock owners and predators are in perpetual conflicts since the Agricultural Revolution 10 000 years ago, it is not difficult to fathom the same problem exists in every country.
Firstly, trapping in the 21st century as a livelihood is on the decline. Since the value of the fur pelts is no longer as what they were two or three decades ago, most of the trapping is done recreationally Those who still trap for a living are often seasonal workers taking on construction or trucking jobs during the summer. In addition, vast tracts of trap-lines are inactive and left to fallow and unused in British Columbia. While there are many persons with a trapping licence in Canada, trying to secure a purchase or even a lease is difficult to obtain since sometimes the line-holders are tricky to contact. Also, it is becoming more popular amongst recreational hunters in North America to purchase trap-lines so they can legally build a small cabin without leasing or zoning and developing the land as agricultural. The purchases by recreational hunters push the value of the trap-line beyond what is economically feasible for anyone with a trapping licence. Nowadays, there are very few trappers who still are managing the fur-bearing populations. Without the support of trappers, the wildlife biologists, ecologists, population geneticists and government cannot calculate an accurate census for wildlife.
Secondly, although tax-payers and ranchers do not always see eye-to-eye, non-hunters and hunters do not always see eye-to-eye either. The majority of North Americans support subsistence hunting. Hunting for fur fall under subsistence hunting, but more commonly the John Q. Public views the scenario as putting food on the table. The support for subsistence hunting is in opposition to trophy hunting, which is frowned upon in today’s society. In effect, predator hunting seen synonymous with trophy hunting. In such cases, predator hunting is sometimes banned, as seen in Washington state and the Southwest. Where effective predator-hunting is restricted or banned, tax-payers’ dollars end up being spent on government-employed hunters using the same methods as recreational hunters; or sometimes crueler. Consequently when the budget for Fish and Wildlife department is slashed, then hazing programs and depredation programs designed to protect threatened or endangered populations from public outcry are no longer active, then increasingly predators learn not to fear humans and often cause public scares and knee-jerk reactions. Not allowing regular hunters and trappers to participate and relying on government-funded hunters or trappers to resolve human conflicts is a waste of tax-dollars; and not instituting hazing programs for protected populations also leave unresolved issues.
Thirdly, the interests of guided outfitters do not always coincide with the interests of the resident hunters or the locals. For instance, it is not uncommon for outfitters wishing to maintain a monopoly to report residential cougar-hunters as poachers even though the licences, permits and tags are legally purchased. Over time, the resident eventually gives up in frustration and leaves the sport altogether. Since trophy animals are highly sought after, often times the population is protected by the guides and outfitters in the region which puts other users of the land at risk of the younger predators. Also, when something other than the traditional blame has been demonstrated to be the problem, it is not uncommon for people to turn the other eye. In this case, when research has shown young grizzly bears heavily impact the moose population more so than wolves, many Alaskans still do not support predator control of grizzlies to supplement the moose population since the grizzly trophy hunt is an economic powerhouse in the North. Oftentimes, the wrong predator or game-animal is targeted in management programs for the sake of profit.
Lastly, livestock compensation programs are not always in the interest of the ranchers. It is common for the government to only pay out half of the market value for a carcass. In a rancher’s mind, a 50-cent bullet or a 5-dollars cable-snare will ensure full profit of the herd. Also, it is not unusual the government will not cover certain types of predator attacks such as coyotes or feral dogs which leave ranchers cynical with a dim view of the bureaucracy if the claim of a wolf-attack is denied. Foreign ways ranchers have no experience with such as electric-fencing, using livestock protection dogs, steel or spiked collar for livestock and other methods recommended by wildlife biologists are not heeded since the government do not subsidize the expenses. Even if the rancher tries new methods out of his own pockets, there is insufficient mentorship on how to accomplish their goals. When the ranchers or farmers are left to own device and try to control the predators with the methods they know best, then trappers and hunters often take the blame from urbanites and environmentalists who do not always sympathize. If it is in the best interest to protect both the wildlife and the livelihood of agriculturalists and pastoralists, then the government should be fully committed to their compensation programs and not leave conflicts half-resolved.
Even though the Norwegian hunter in question addressed the concept of “fair chase”, there are several other issues which must be raised. Personally, I do not believe in micro-managing predators so road-hunters can be satisfied with the over-population of deer, elk or moose to the point where the local ecosystem is over-grazed and stripped bare of natural habitats for small-game animals. However, after witnessing many animal-lovers suddenly changing their views once cougars, coyotes, wolves or bears start strolling into town and eating pets or attacking small women and children, predators should have natural fear of mankind; and demonizing hunters and trappers will not alleviate the conflicts. Making access and affordability more difficult for other hunters and trappers to participate for someone else’s selfish reason, either intentionally or unintentionally, enable human-predator conflicts in the long run. While everyone is entitled to have food on the table, even if subsidized by the government, there need to be a healthy relationship between human and the natural world, which means providing education and supplies as well as compensating fully for the livestock or land damage. Unless all these points are addressed, the misuse of our natural resources will continue.
Please feel free to share the campaign awareness against the misuse of Norway’s natural resources through the extermination of a sensitive keystone species by launching preemptive strikes and unfair hunting of denning animals. Since the population density of wolverines tend to be low, they should be given a chance to learn to avoid humans and their settlements.