Wolves are unpopular with Norwegian farmers. Photo: Heiko Junge / NTB scanpix
Environment minister Vidar Helgesen on Wednesday said he aimed to rush through changes to a bill in parliament which will open the way for a limited cull before the end of the hunting season this March.
“This is no carte blanche too completely shoot down the entire wolf population,” he told state broadcaster NRK. “But it gives a greater flexibility than we have today,” Helgesen told state broadcaster NRK.
He told the NTB newswire that the final number of wolves which could be shot would be a matter for regional and national authorities to decide “on a case-by-case basis”.
He claims the new policy was modelled on that of Sweden and justified by “science, culture, economy, recreation and biodiversity”.
The announcement marks the latest twist in the highly politicised battle that began when the government announced plans to give permits for 47 wolves to be shot last autumn.
This sparked a furious reaction from animal rights activists, who pointed out that with only an estimated 68 wolves living in Norway, this represented two thirds of the entire national wolf population.
The government backed down under pressure, with the Justice Ministry ruling that Norwegian law forbade such a large-scale cull.
After the number of permits was reduced to 15 in December, Trygve Slagsvold Vedum, the leader of the agrarian Centre Party, successfully hijacked it as a populist campaign issue in the run-up to this September’s election.
Rasmus Hansson, spokesman for the Green Party, sharply criticised the government's proposal, calling it the most “crazy” thing he had ever heard in Norwegian nature management.
“Now wolves have become an animal can be killed for virtually any reason. If one were to adopt similar criteria for hunting, logging and other natural destruction, Donald Trump would, perhaps for the first time in his life, be green with envy,” he said.
The move was welcomed by Norwegian Association of Hunters and Anglers, however. “This is what we have fought for, so we see this as a positive signal,” Knut Arne Gjems told NRK.