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.