Norway's wolf population reduced by half to 8 -15 wolves

Wolf population cut in half. Illegal hunting and the apparent lack of any new breeding in the past year has cut Norway’s wolf population in half and seriously set back efforts against extinction.”

Wolves have faced a great political struggle in Norway.






  1. natehobbs Avatar

    This is sad news to read.

    I hate the attitude that anti wolf groups have that the animal is an unstoppable breeding machine that explodes in population the last quote is a troubling one.

  2. Peter Kiermeier Avatar

    Of all the Scandinavian countries Norway is the worst! Remember, they still insist to kill whales for “scientific reasons”. There is an almighty hunting (no, despite a viking heritage, they do not eat wolves and bears) and sheep growers lobby plus a widspread hate for wolves. Occasionally the have an airwar against wolves, like in Alaska. Illegal hunting and poaching is a common sport out there in the woods.

  3. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Thanks Peter.

    That is what I perceived to be true from reading about Norway here in the States.

  4. Peter Kiermeier Avatar

    On a more positive note, the first pup of the year has been sighted with one of the german wolf packs. There is an amateur pic on
    (click pic to enlarge). It is suspected that it could even belong to a new pack. Evidence of pups with the remaining packs is missing so far but reproduction is very likely. Recent losses include a roadkill , one illegal kill and one kill under strange circumstances during a hunting event. Total wolf population in Germany is estimated around 25 individuals. Even the anti wolf lobby remains relatively quiet at the moment.

  5. Catbestland Avatar

    I have been reading about the plight of the Norwegian wolves. Especially about “Heidi and Erik” the last breeding pair. Tell me, are these wolves very closely related to our Grey Wolves or Timber Wolves? How large are they? It is hard to tell from the pictures I have seen. They are quite beautiful.

  6. Peter Kiermeier Avatar

    Heidi and Erik should be the Eurasian or European Wolf (Canis lupus lupus) thus on pictures captioned “Heidi” and “Erik”, they look quite large and impressive in their winter pelt. C. lupus lupus is overall much smaller than the Grey Wolf, measuring between 23-35 inches at the shoulders and weighing from about 70 to 120 pounds, with females even smaller. Colour is a greyish brown with brown and cream/off-white accents. I have not found a reference so far that these two could be the larger C. lupus albus said to exist from Finland east to Kamchatka.

  7. Catbestland Avatar

    The reason I asked is that I was reading about the inbreeding problem of such a small population and was wondering if the program would benefit from the introduction of grey wolf blood into the pack system. From what you describe, it doesn’t sound like it. Are there any other populations of that particular species in Europe to draw on? Or perhaps in Russia?

  8. Peter Kiermeir Avatar

    Hello Cathryn, basically the situation is as such: Every European State, except Austria, presently has wolves, either the European (Eurasian), the Italian or the Iberian Wolf. With the exception of the iberian peninsula population all populations expand. Italian wolves move north into Switzerland and France, Polish and Czech populations move into Germany, the rich Russian population (with several sub-species of wolf) feeds Scandinavia (which at the moment obviously has a “down”). Eastern European states like Romania and ex Russian Federation States like Ukraine have a rich wolf population, Russia itself has many thousand. Small and isolated populations in the west would of course benefit from some “genetic refreshment” but the introduction of (additional) wolves is absolutely discouraged by all States. It would enevitably lead to a situation like in the American West. To me the re-introduction programms (YNP and Mexican Wolf) are nothing more than small wonders!

  9. Peter Kiermeir Avatar

    Ok, I think my Geography suffers. Of course the Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark do not have wolf. Austria could already have some – who knows for sure.

  10. Peter Kiermeir Avatar

    Small update on an old thread:
    From the Feb 2009 issue of the BBC Wildlife Magazine I learn, that People of Norway are due to vote in General Elections this year and the fate of the countries wolf population could be affected by whoever takes power. Demands for a cull are likely to increase if a coalition government is formed, with the Centre Party, also called the “Farmers Party”, almost always in coalition. And, as Norwegian ecologists say, for farmers the most important issue after subsidy levels is (surprise, surprise) predator control!

  11. Jon Bonde Avatar
    Jon Bonde

    The “Norwegian” wolves are established in the border region towards Sweden. Its not a Norwegian and a Swedish population, but one population ranging across the border. Official estimates for the entire population are around 250 animals, and the official estimate is thought to be a low one by most. This years estimate in Norway is 30-50 wolves, and three litters born in 2008. At least two litters are expected in 2009. Note that all wolves in the region decend from three individual wolves wandering into the area from Finland/Russia in the 1980’s and 90’s, and that the population has increased from 2 wolves in mid 1980’s to 250 today. Inbreeding is immense. On average, the wolves are closer related than brother/sister. Two new wolves have wandered in this winter, and a boost in reproduction is to be expected. The level of conflict is high in Norway due to a thriving sheep farming tradition. The area with wolves is the area with lowest densities of sheep, but there’s a lot of sheep in surrounding areas. Sweden has about one fifth of the sheep numbers of Norway (N:~2 mill, S~450-500K) and most of the Swedish sheep are situated on the coast and on islands, far away from predators.

  12. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I would say that this wolf population needs some wolves added to it from somewhere else to improve its genetics.

    That means the population would have to be allowed to grow. Although it would not be desirable, if it was later reduced back to 250 individuals, it would still be a healthier and more robust population than before.

  13. Peter Kiermeir Avatar

    Wolves are not safe in Sweden either! Remember, the King of Sweden himself, the honorary chair of the WWF in Sweden (!!), spoke against the wolf. Both countries are ” poachers heaven”. In 1994-2004 three-quarters of the radio-collared wolves in Sweden and Norway have gone missing! Of 48 wolves collared, 36 have been lost – at least half of them shot, almost all illegally. One could suspect that they like to tune in the frequency of the collars and follow the music.

  14. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    This reminds me of the Mexican wolf program, and that’s not good.

  15. Jon Bonde Avatar
    Jon Bonde

    Overdramatization, like Peter makes himself guilty of, is the biggest threat to wolves in Scandinavia. It only serve one purpose, namely to increase the conflict between those that wish to protect the wolf, and those that doesn’t. Of the missing radiocollared wolves, only 4.1% are known to have been killed illegally. The rest has just disappeared.

    Of course, some claim that the missing wolves were also illegally shot, but in recent years several such wolves have reappeared – alive (the same thing also has happened with lynx and bears). The reason so many are missing could just as easily be because of malfunctions in radiocollar equipment. It could also be because of wolves dieing naturally, from drowning in lakes or streams, from injuries which have forced them to hide away in caves or hollows, or other perfectly natural reasons. Illegal killing does of course occur, but not in the scale some imply.

    It is estimated that 2 “immigrant-wolves” from Finland/Russia per 5 years is suficcient, and helping them on the way is probably not an option. Conflicts are high enough as they are, and in any case Scandinavian wolves will never be more than a small meta-population in a relatively densely populated area.

  16. Peter Kiermeir Avatar

    Ja, Jon Bonde, fully agreed on overdramatization. Scandinavia is a natures refugee – save for wolves! Now let´s get a nice whale steak!

  17. Jon Bonde Avatar
    Jon Bonde

    Yes, an increase from two to 250 wolves in 20 years clearly indicate that Scandinavia is a bad place for wolves, don’t you think…

  18. Peter Kiermeir Avatar

    The increase in wolf numbers is attributed to Finland and the 250 are not the combined Norwegian/Swedish numbers! I should not have said Scandinavia but explicitly named (and blamed) Norway, with the situation in Sweden not bright but far better than in Norway! My fault for being too sloppy. Norway surely ranks first in anti-predator attitude but Sweden (having combined forces with Norway on the wolf subject – means “managing” their combined handful of animals) somehow and often undeservingly escapes international criticism. Maybe because Norway always steals the glamour with this additional whale hunting issue, that always good for headlines! Fact is that Norway – or better the norwegians sanctioned by their government – have an anti-carnivore and anti conservation attitude unparalleled in Europe. Another sad fact is, that poaching (of not only wolves, but also wolverines and lynx and moose and, and, and) has in the meantime reached levels of a national sports. Coming to the “overdramatization” you accused me: If somebody on this blog is interested, the LCIE Large Carnivore Initiative for Europe, has enough material in it´s archive available for download so everybody can make it´s own picture of the situation in “Scandinavia”. Link is go to the publications section.

  19. Peter Kiermeir Avatar

    Generally accepted estimates seem between 150-200 wolves for Sweden. Norway often adopts this number to create the (false) impression that this is the total number for Sweden and Norway, cause of course wolves do cross borders forth and back (surprise surprise). However only a dozen or two out of this overall number can be somehow attributed to Norway. Actual numbers always depend on how many have been hunted and poached recently (or have drowned in lakes …….with chaines on their feet).

  20. Jon Bonde Avatar
    Jon Bonde

    The estimate for the winter of 2007-08 is about 200 wolves for the population as a whole (Norway + Sweden). With 25 litters being born in 2008 (preliminary results) and population estimates for this winter not ready yet, we could estimate that with an average of 4 pups per litter (which has been the norm in recent years) another 100 wolves have been born into the population bringing the total up to about 300 wolves. As a rough estimate.

    The expected number of litters is about the same for this year, meaning that the population will continue to increase. And this year, one or two litters are expected to be born with the father being a wolf that has wandered in from Finland/Russia.

  21. Peter Kiermeir Avatar

    Newspaper reports say, that the wolf that has wandered in from Finland has already been killed, together with a female partner and dumped in a lake with iron chains wrapped around the body!

  22. Jon Bonde Avatar
    Jon Bonde

    Three wolves has wandered in recently, one of them have already fathered a litter. Rumors has it that one of them have been killed illegally. Rumors also has it that one or more of these wolves have not actually “wandered” in, but have gotten help on the way. One of them was identified (by DNA) in northern Sweden two years ago, disappeared and later reappeared almost 1000 km further south. The other two were first discovered in southern parts of Norway/Sweden (both just on the border), after a trip of more than 1500 km without being registered at all.

  23. Peter Kiermeir Avatar

    The “rumours” about illegal killings in Norway are very real newspaper articles. The other “rumours” about wolves “not having actually” wandered in refer maybe to the well known fact, that Norwegians are prone to the same “black helicopter” myth as some circles in the USA. In Norway it´s maybe because of these long month of darkness……

  24. Jon Bonde Avatar
    Jon Bonde

    …and the rumours in both cases originate from the same source – anonymous calls to the newspaper. And there’s equally good indication that both rumours could be false. Several wolves supposed to have been illegally killed have reappeared in good health, and at least one tagged wolf has wandered from south of Norway to Finland. So it is completely possible for a wolf to disappear on its own, and its completely possible for a wolf to wander the distance from Finland to south of Norway/Sweden on its own.

    Stick to what we know, shall we?

  25. Peter Kiermeir Avatar

    Jon, let´s terminate it here. You will not convince me that Norway is the wildlife conservation heaven that you see with rose coloured glasses! After all this is an American blog, with of course mainly American interests and problems. I´m grateful that the people here on this blog occasionally show more than a passing interest in related European conservation issues and I´m also grateful that they allow us to occasionally comment from a European point of view on American conservation subjects. We are not isolated, wildlife conservation is a global issue and a look beyond one´s own nose always broadens the horizon. We Europeans – here I simply assume you are a Norwegian or Swede or have at least a strong Scandinavian ancestry – should however simply not overdo it. It´s a pity, that we do not have a similar blog here in Europe with so many enthusiastic and dedicated people participating and a wealth of knowledge and ideas to share. Thus it is may be sometimes interesting for our American friends to learn, that “Idaho” or “Wyoming” or “Montana” or even “New Mexico” can be “everywhere”, sometimes even in Norway.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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