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
At first sight contradicting, the wolves in Norway and Sweden differ genetically from the wolves living in Finland today.
However, this is neither good news nor a sign that Norway has a separate wolf population.
“We found no evidence of any particular or unique genetic adaptations in Norwegian-Swedish wolves,” says Stenøien.
Instead, the reason for the genetic differences is far less harmless and lies in the size of the wolf population, which is small and where there is only a limited influx of new genes from other areas.
“Inbreeding has resulted in wolves in Norway and Sweden now showing very little genetic variation,” says Stenøien.
That likely means that the region’s wild wolves are descended from a very small number of Finnish animals.
This makes it easier for genetic defects to pass from one generation to the next.
Unfavorable genes are not effectively eradicated by natural selection.
“This lack of variation makes wolves prone to various diseases and hereditary diseases,” explains Stenøien.
There is a real danger that the wolf will become extinct again in Norway – not only because it is being hunted this time, but because inbreeding makes the animals less resilient.
And I mean…Norway, a country with 5.3 million inhabitants, has 500,000 hunters, that says a lot.
In Norway, Sweden and Finland there are annual hunting quotas, with different models, but all with the effect of keeping the population of wolves small.
In Sweden, for example, a lower limit of 300 wolves has actually been defined, below which the population should not fall.
In the criminal practice of hunting quotas, however, this became an upper limit.
In addition, there is a “protection hunt” – also for bears and wolverines – because the farmers do not want to protect their “farm” animals with correct herd protection measures because of costs.
In Norway, hunters slaughtered 30 wolves in the winter of 2018, more than ever before. With state licenses!
A total of 42 wolves were released for shooting, 16 of them were on the edge of a protection zone on the border between Norway and Sweden.
In Sweden, 48 wolves were slaughtered during the same period.
In Scandinavia the animals are actually under protection, but farmers, hunters and forest owners, this murderous lobby would like to release the last specimens for shooting – and repeatedly organizes illegal wolf hunts or lays poisoned, glycol-soaked bait meat in the forests.
The arguments of the wolf haters: Allegedly, too many sheep and elk are torn down by wild wolves every year.
They are the same animals that the farmer will release for slaughter anyway.
Because the farmers keep animals for economic reasons.
But wild animals do not operate factory farming, they eat what they find otherwise they starve to death.
Grazing animals are ultimately brutally killed in slaughterhouses without any control and carted into the mobile coffins on all the highways of the world.
And that is also subsidized!
We will do everything to ensure that the wolf stays wherever he wants to live.
My best regards to all, Venus