lauantai 10. kesäkuuta 2017

The wolf estimate of 2017

Jay! It's finally out :D

Shortly put, the wolf population is estimated to have been between 150 and180 individuals in March this year. This estimate is 25% lower than the estimate last year (2016)
There are 14 packs that are wholly or mostly in Finland. (We share a number of packs with our eastern neighbor, Russia). 7 packs move across the border and are labeled as bordering packs.
18 territory marking wolf pairs out of which 3 are living in the border area.
Also in three territories it was uncertain whether area has 2 or 3 wolves, thus uncertainty of pack status.
The location of packs (green) border packs (grey), pairs (yellow) and the uncertain ones (orange)

The reason why the estimate took so long to come out, was that Luke (Natural Resources Institute Finland) researchers were using DNA analysis this time to make better estimate. The collecting of scats and analyzing them took time.

The amount packs with GPS collared wolves in them is 6, the amount of individuals collared is 13.

Reasons for decline are multiple and uncertain. Partly due the DNA testing merging some border packs in one pack (previously thought to be 2 different packs) and loss of breeding individuals in the hunting year 2015-2016 when anthropomorphic mortality rose unexpectedly high ( 75 individuals in total out of which 13 were breeding individuals).

The anthropomorphic mortality in the hunting year 2016-2017 was 57 individuals, out of which 6 were breeding individuals (1 male, 5 females).
Out of these, amount of wolves killed with regular exempt permits (given to prevent more depredations) was 15, the management exempt permits 26, by the order of the police 7, traffic killed 7, 1  by poaching.
One wolf died due accident, rising the total known mortality to 58 individuals.

The amount of pairs in wolf population was high in March (52% of all territories) when it was just 35% in March 2016. This could mean that there are now several new packs in Finland, since around 60% of pairs succeed to breed in their first spring together. (If interested that would mean 10,8 more packs formed this year, rising the amount of packs to 24-27, when counting in the 3 uncertain packs).

lauantai 8. huhtikuuta 2017

What's happening on the wolf front in Finland

As spring time has come, were waiting to hear latest info on population estimates. Usually the estimates have come around February-March, but since DNA-studies have been taken in to use as an aid to give more accurate estimates, the announcement date has been pushed back to May-June.
So we still have to wait bit more to find out how wolf population has reacted to the managment hunts and the unforeseen death toll of 78 individuals in season 2015-2016.

While waiting the estimates to finish, there are few things happening that are worth mentioning.

First, a so-called "wolf-rebellion" has taken place, where a group of people are willing to pay "tail-money" to Russians, who kill wolves that live both sides of the border (since problematic animals can't be removed legally in Finland, the problem wolves can be dealt on the other side of the border in Russia, where hunting wolves is legal and wolves have had bounty on them before.
Reasons for this movement is aforementioned lack of legal options to remove problem individuals and packs but also a certain worry over the wild forest reindeer, which numbers in it's former core area has been dwindling due heavy predation.

Second form of rebellion is seen in several parts of Finland, where the volunteer hunters who have formed the Large Game executive assistance force, are ending their contracts with police, since wolves have become such a large threat to the dogs used to track injured large game animals (moose and large carnivores) that the owners do not want to take that risk during training or in actual search situation.

Then there is the ongoing dispute over purity of our wolves. Official records recognize only 3 individuals from the past which have been wolf-dog hybrids. Others consider that the change in appearance and behavior of wolves in the past decade or so is due dog genes contaminating our wolf population and some have gone as far as claiming the whole population being nothing but hybrid mutts.
There is an ongoing pro-grad study in University of Oulu, where a new method is being developed to help recognize hybrids more easily. This will also include making a family tree out all the existing samples from the past 150 years.
(Link to the researcher Jenni Harmoinen's profile page:

torstai 19. tammikuuta 2017

Update on wolf hunting and licences 19th of Jan.

Here is a small update on the situation:

As of 17th of Jan (permits are made available for public to view 2 days after decision) the amount of wolves requested to be hunted totaled at 69 individuals.
Out of these 7 were requested and given to reindeer herding area. (no quota)
As for the rest of Finland, 62 individuals were requested to be hunted (quota was set at 53 individuals).

Permits were granted for 20 wolves (as of the 17th), out of which 13 were granted to Northern-Karelia. (amount requested from N-K was 44 wolves).

As of 19th (today) 10 wolves have been killed since the beginning of the year. 1 was removed by the order of the police as the male wolf was suffering from a mange and 9 individuals have been shot with exempt permits, all of which have had a tendency to visit yards (definition for a yard visit is wolf moving less than 100 meters from an inhabited house, animal shed or farm.)

sunnuntai 8. tammikuuta 2017

Of the first 2 hunting permits

The Finnish Wildlife Agency has given 2 permits (each having licences to kill 2 individuals) to hunt wolves. Here I'll do a small summary on the reasons behind granting the permits.

First the one was given to the so called Renko pack.

This pack is situated in Kanta-Häme, area with rather high population density (~32 km2 )
The pack in question has made visits to yard areas (less than 100 meters from a inhabited house) 65 times between 1st of June and 4th of January. Amount of wolves doing these visits has ranged from 1 to 8 at a time.
There has been 2 deterring events ordered by the police, last one was done 4th of December after which wolves have continued to visit in yards (16 times).
After the beginning of June, the emergency center has gotten 6 emergency calls concerning the wolves.

The second one was given to the so called Höljäkkä pack.

This pack is situated in the border area of Lieksa and Nurmes. Area is not densely populated in general, but the pack's core territory is in the middle of densely populated area consisting of several villages.
This pack has made almost 100 visits to yards between the 1 st of June and 2nd of January. Last year, two female pups were shot from the pack and the alpha female produced a large litter this year making the pack size rise to 9. Two individuals have died from this pack due collisions with train. (young individuals)
This pack has killed 1 dog and mauled another. Also one dog was killed in the near by area, but not by the pack in question.
This pack has other packs bordering it, having 8 packs in a 100km radius.
The moose hunting is not conducted in the area due low densities of moose.
Extra school rides have been taken in to use to safeguard children's travel to school and back. These cost 11 345 euros per month (in Lieksa) and 3500 euros (in Nurmes) per year.
One wolf was killed by the order of the police in the area, a malnurished male, weighing only 15 kg. ( 27th of November). Most likely this individual was not part of the pack in question,

Both permits state that it is recommended to take young individual from the pack and to avoid killing a reproducing individual.
The permit is in effect for 21 days.

lauantai 7. tammikuuta 2017

On wolf hunt between 22nd Dec -16 and 31st of July 2017

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry gave out a decree ruling that maximum amount of wolves killed between giving of the decree (22nd of December 2016) and end of the hunting year 2016-2017 (31st of July 2017) is 53 wolves.
This is not a amount that is target, but an upper limit after which no more permits can be given by game management.

The amount will include ALL known mortality, so every vehicle collision, police permit, inter species kill is counted. 

The first one to be taken from this quota was a male wolf shot since it was suffering from a serious case of mange and was ruled to be killed to end it's sufferings.

In the first week of January total of  18 permit applications were made, out of which 2 were accepted, others will need extra info and will be re-viewed in the second week of Jan.

These 2 permits were given to areas of Renko (2 wolves) and area consisting of parts from Lieksa and Nurmes. (2 wolves.) Both permits are targeting packs doing frequent yard visits and showing lessened fear towards humans. Permits have terms that limit the usage to young and harm causing individuals, usage of dogs during the hunt, organizing the hunt and amount of people to take part in the hunt.

The "mid-term" evaluation given to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry estimates that there are 32-38 packs in Finland currently (reproduced packs).

Amount of wolves does not seem to have changed drastically from the year 2015, the final estimate will be given in March.
The packs in December. Blue ones contain 8 or more wolves, green ones with red circle around them are still uncertain.

perjantai 11. marraskuuta 2016

Wolf quota to be set at 40 individuals outside reindeer herding area

Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry proposes: Wolf quota to be set at 40 individuals outside reindeer herding area

Ministry is proposing a yearly quota of 40 individuals to be killed during 2016-2018 hunting years (2 year period). The amount will be put in to a new consideration in 2017.

The amount of killed wolves will include all known wolf mortality outside reindeer herding area.

The permits will be issued through derogation clauses b and c in Article 16 of Habitats Directive. ( (b) to prevent serious damage, in particular to crops, livestock, forests, fisheries and water and other types of property;
(c) in the interests of public health and public safety, or for other imperative reasons of overriding public interest, including those of a social or economic nature and beneficial consequences of primary importance for the environment;)

The given permits can be put to use immediately, giving more chances to regulate the hunting. (Since the permits won't be active all in the same time)
 When the permits are given gradually, it is also easier to keep track of hunted alpha females and effect the hunting has to the wolf population.

The decree will be given for 2 hunting years to ensure the Finnish Wildlife Agency has enough flexibility and interminably to issue the permits for  applications that fulfill the requirements.
The decree will be re-examined in the end of 2017.

According to the preliminary estimate made by Natural Resourses Institute, there are 23-28 wolf packs in Finland, out of which 9 are shared with Russia.
Last year the preliminary estimate gave 22-43 packs out of which 10 were shared with Russia

More detailed estimate will be given in December 2016, including more precise knowledge of amount of packs and a preliminary estimate of the amount of wolves.
The final estimate will be given in March 2017

torstai 10. marraskuuta 2016

Been a while....

It's been a while since I last wrote, mainly since there isn't much to report.

The final-final results of the management hunt from this spring came in few days ago.

So the amount of wolves killed in this management hunt was 43 individuals. Out of them 25 were males and 18 females.
Adult:sub-adult:pup ratio was 23:1:19.
Confirmed alphas included 3 males and 8 females.
Males without confirmation/knowledge of status: 9
Males non-alpha 2
Females non-alpha 1
Female/Male pup ratio 9:10
1 sub-adult male

Including the confirmed alphas from other removals, the complete toll of alphas killed between 1.August 2015-31.July 2016 was 13 alphas. During this period total of killed wolves was 73.

This amount was way larger than anticipated. 30 wolves died outside of the management hunt. At least 10 of them were killed in the reindeer herding area, some of them died in vehicle collisions, one was shot to safeguard one's life (a collared wandering male redirected his aggression towards a man after hunting dog escaped him to his owner and owners friend). Several were ordered by the police to be lethally removed after deterring didn't work (these instances happened in and close proximity of either settlements or urban areas.)

The hunting will however continue, although different, since the unexpected amount of killed wolves during a year period. Details of future hunting legislation is still being prepared, but already it has been confirmed that there'll be a yearly cap for wolves killed and the permit process will be lighter. One of the biggest problems of the test management hunt was the period of appeals. The permits had to be issued early, so that the hunt would be over before the breeding season. In future, it seems, the appeal period will not be used. (There was also a rush during the hunt, due fear of withdrawal of the permits by court of justice, which might be partially to blame for large amount of alphas felled during the hunt.)

The preliminary estimate of the wolf population shows decrease in number of packs, but since the observation period for this was only approx. 2 months long (1. August - around 15.October) and without any snow on the ground, it is highly uncertain. The amount of packs given in this preliminary estimate was 23-28. Last year the similar estimate was 22-43 packs. (Confirmed later to be 37-39 packs).
Information regarding whether there'll be a new, more certain estimate is contradicting, since the management plan states there'll be 2 estimates, one given in October-November containing amount of packs and a final estimate in February-March including amount of individuals.
But during the press conference it might have been said, that there will be a 3rd estimate, that will be given somewhere around November-December when snow cover reveals tracks made by packs and pairs. Unfortunately, the information regarding this is scarce and the Natural Resources Institute hasn't told anything in it's own web-page regarding this estimate. (only the press release was given through STT-news agency)