Wolves are to blame for the reduced population of elk in the region, say hunters.
Norway's annual elk hunting season, in which licensed hunters are permitted to shoot the animal in specified regions of the country, began on Monday.
But hunters in Eastern Norway are concerned that their chances of actually shooting any elk are zero, reports broadcaster NRK.
Populations of elk in several regions have dipped significantly in recent years, according to the report, with the eastern part of the Elgregion elk zone – which was also affected by a political dispute over the shooting of wolves – seeing numbers of elk shot during hunting season halved since 2010.
The eastern part of the Elgregion hunting zone comprises seven municipalities: Aurskog-Høland, Eidskog, Fet & Sørum, Kongsvinger, Nes and Sør-Odal.
Over 1200 elk were shot in the area in 2010 compared with 570 last year, reports NRK.
“It is because of wolves. In this area, several wolves together were observed as recently as Easter this year,” Hallstein Flesland, a representative on the East Elgregion council and forest administrator, told the broadcaster.
Hunters have also found cadavers of elk that appear to have been killed by wolves in the area's forests, according to the report.
Barbara Zimmermann, a researcher at the Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences, said that both wolves and climatic factors could be involved in the dwindling elk numbers in the hunting zone.
“Climatic reasons are also conceivable. It could have become warmer, creating a climate less comfortable for the elk. Additionally, targeted shooting of elk to reduce pasture damage to the forest on both sides of the [Norway-Sweden] border may be showing results now,” she told NRK.
Flesland said that it was possible that too many animals had been hunted in the past, but that wolves were undoubtedly a factor in the current situation.
“It could be related to administration. We did not think that the wolves would take as much as they have,” he said.
“One wolf pair takes between 120 and 150 elk every year,” he added, citing the Skandulv study of wolf populations in the region and their effects on elk numbers.
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