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2002.07.08 BBC Radio 4:   Radioprogram

Wild Europe: Norway's wolves

Foto: Alpha-gruppen ©
With so few people and so much space, why did Norway kill its last breeding wolf pack last year?
Wonderful, wild, mountainous Norway is ideal wolf habitat. In the past it was home to thousands of wolves, but today there are just 13. Last year to a government-organised cull from helicopters removed a whole pack of eight animals, leaving no intact breeding families in the whole country and going against the government's own policy. In the first programme of this new series of Wild Europe, Lionel Kellaway travels to Norway to find out why.
In the late 19th-century wolves were eradicated in Norway as a pest species. When, in the 1980s a pair that had made its way from Finland began to breed in southern Norway, sheep farmers were already contending with bears, lynx and wolverine eating their sheep. Wolves were the final straw. Hunters, too, protested loudly against the growing wolf population. Wolves ate their dogs and ate the moose they loved to hunt.
Lionel Kellaway visits the farmer who lost 60 percent of his sheep to the wolves last year and who will leave the land if he can't find a way of protecting them, and the landowner who lost 90 percent of his income from hunting because wolves ate the moose on his land.
With both hunting and farming lobbies powerful in Norway, wolves are a political hot potato and feelings run high. But by talking to scientists, hunters and sheep farmers, and by confronting the Minister responsible for wolf policy in Norway, Lionel gets a fascinating insight into the very real struggles and concerns that lie behind the headline-grabbing debate.
And, as wolves increase in number and range right across Europe, this is a debate that more and more countries will have to face up to.
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