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Study: Engaging local residents crucial for co-existence with wolves

A wildlife researcher proposes that residents of areas with large populations of predators could be paid 'tolerance compensation' to help reduce poaching.

Finland's wolf population has fluctuated between around 100 and 250 since the turn of the millennium. Image: Seppo Nykänen

Engagement with local communities is essential for proper management of Finland’s large predator populations, argues Sakari Mykrä, a project coordinator at Metsähallitus Parks & Wildlife Finland, part of the state forest agency . At the University of Turku on Friday, he defended his doctoral thesis on the development of wildlife classifications and attitudes.

Mykrä notes that ignoring the views of local communities can lead to residents taking matters into their own hands. This has taken the form of illegal shooting of wolves, wolverines and eagles, for instance.

“Ultimately, the locals have the opportunity, and according on their own world of experience, also the right to resolve what they see as unfair situation by taking illegal action,” Mykrä observes.

Tracking by DNA rather than collars

According to his dissertation, one way to advance co-existence with predators would be a ‘tolerance compensation’ to be paid to locals.

“If an individual citizen or group feels that things aren’t working, they start to think about how they could arrange things through their own means. The wolf population has gone up and down for this reason since the turn of the millennium, for instance,” Mykrä says.

Between 1998 and 2014, poachers killed at least 52 wolves that had been equipped with tracking collars by researchers, most of them so-called ‘alpha’ individuals or pack leaders.

Partly as a result of this, the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) is considering a move away from such collars. Wolves can also be tracked through DNA analysis of their scat.

Less than 200 wolves in Finland

Last year Luke estimated that there were 200-235 wolves in Finland, but last spring dropped its estimate to between 150 and 180. The stock is strongest in south-west Finland and North Karelia, where wolves move back and forth across the nearby Russian border.

Around the turn of the millennium, there were only about 100 wolves, but the population recovered to more than 250 individuals by 2006.

While some conservations argue vehemently against any wolf hunting for population management, but other experts claim that such culling leads to less poaching.

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