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Western Finland sees jump in wolf population

The wolf population in Finland has grown in the past years, raising concerns among some parents about their children's safety.

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A wolf captured by a game camera in Laitila Image: Veijo Jalonen

The number of wolves has increased by 10 percent from last year, with 200 wolves now living in Finland. Around 70 percent of the wolves live in the western part of the country while their number in the east has declined according to the Natural Resources Institute (Luke).

There were 20 wolf packs in Finland in March compared with 14 packs a year ago, with a total population of 180-205 wolves living in the country, Luke estimates. The wolf population has increased the most in western Finland due to reproduction and abundant prey, Luke says, with a female wolf breeding for the first time giving birth to 3.7 pups on average.

However, despite the increasing number of wolf sightings, the Finnish Nature League says a wolf has not killed or injured a human being in Finland since 1882.

Concerned parents

In Laitila, south-western Finland, the wolf population has grown in the past years, with sightings of the animals or their tracks occurring daily.

Kari Jalonen, who serves as a contact person for the Finnish Wildlife Agency, says wolves have been spotted all over the village. The agency is responsible for administration of game hunting licenses in Finland.

"People don't dare to let their small kids play alone in the yard, there always has to be someone keeping watch because you never know where they're coming from or when they're coming," said Jalonen.

In the village of Kaivola, four parents and grandparents delivered a petition to agricultural minister Jari Leppä in the spring, demanding a change to Finland's wolf policy. As a result, residents in Laitila received angry calls from conservationists.

Distrust of Luke

Despite the daily sightings of wolves in Laitila, Jalonen says it is difficult to obtain a permit to kill one.

Miika Yli-Karro from the local hunting association says residents are frustrated with the institute, because the authorities do not seem to listen to their concerns. To show their dissatisfaction, hunters in Laitila stopped the practice of recording their wolf sightings in Luke's database at the start of this year.

Wolves belong to Finland's nature, Yli-Karro adds, but not in habitats where humans live.

”That is an impossible equation.”

According to his estimates, there are 25-26 wolves in the area. Jalonen also argues that culling wolves should be easier. One call to the police should suffice to remove a wolf that comes to the village, he says.

In Laitila, wolves have killed one dog and several sheep.

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