The wolves that live in Norway and Sweden today are actually Finns, as extensive studies of their genetic make-up have shown.
Hunters wiped out the original Norwegian wolf population in the wild around 1970.
“The original Norwegian-Swedish wolves probably had no genetic similarities with today’s wolves in Norway and Sweden,” says Hans Stenøien, director of the University Museum of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).
Stenøien is the lead author of a new report that looks at the genetic makeup of the Norwegian-Swedish wolf population in much more detail than has previously been the case.
“We did the largest genetic study on wolves in the world,” says Stenøien.
This is part of an extensive report on the wolf in Norway commissioned by the Norwegian Parliament (Storting) in 2016.
But by that time the real Norwegian-Swedish wolves had been gone for many years.
“Granted, some of the original Norwegian-Swedish wolves can still be found in zoos outside Norway.
But our wolves today are not closely related to them, “says Stenøien.
Disappeared and come back
The wolf came to Norway when the ice retreated around 12,000 years ago.
But around 1970 it disappeared from the Norwegian landscape and probably also from Sweden.
Above all, the high hunting pressure and conflicts with agriculture contributed to the decline in wild animals.
But apparently the species settled again around 1980.
Today more than 400 wolves roam the border area between Norway and Sweden.
They are considered to be a common population.
There used to be rumors that wolves had been released from zoos into the Norwegian wilderness, but that doesn’t seem to be true. In any case, it cannot be wildlife from the original Norwegian wolf population.
Instead, Finnish wolves seem to have expanded their territory.
“Today’s wolves in Norway and Sweden are most likely descended from wolves that immigrated from Finland,” says Professor Stenøien.
Where the wolves come from in Finland is not entirely certain, but they seem to be Finnish nonetheless.
Wolves threatened by severe inbreeding