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  • Writer's pictureAntti Haataja

Killed by reindeer – Annihilation of Wolves in Lapland by helicopter

annihilation ”the state or fact of being completely destroyed or obliterated”

- Merriam-Webster dictionary

Friday the 13th of October 2023 saw the extermination of 5 wolves in Maskaselkä Savukoski in Finnish Lapland. The wolves were killed by reindeer herders to mitigate and prevent losses to reindeer herding.

A week later reindeer herders from the same reindeer herding district – the largest by area and reindeer count – Kemin-Sompio tracked and shot another 5 wolves in Rakitsat in the heart of the second largest national park of Finland the Urho Kekkonen national park.

The reindeer herders worked efficiently and wiped out a family of wolves. Within a circle of just 200 meters in radius 4 wolves were hunted down and the 5th wolf saw her demise 900 meters further on a frozen open bog. 5 km from Korvatunturi fell, the home of Santa Claus and Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer – the mascots of Lapland.

On the 20th of October 5 wolves were killed in Rakitsat in Urho Kekkonen national park. (Source: Riistakeskus)

On the 31st of October reindeer herders added another 2 wolves south of Luirojärvi one of the most iconic and recognisable sceneries inside this second most visited national park of Finland increasing the death toll of wolves to 7 inside the Urho Kekkonen national park borders in just the month of October.

Kemin-Sompio from Vieriharju. Above Korvatunturi in the distance. Below Rakitsat in the distance. Visible the loss of lichen due to overgazing by reindeer (above) and shrubification due to climate change (below) – reindeer count is high enough to cause erosion of lichen but not high enough to prevent shrubification.

Images on the left: Antti Haataja 2023.

Images on the right: Erkki Mikkola 1933, kansatieteen kuvakokoelma, Museovirasto.

7 more wolves have been killed in Finnish reindeer herding district since the beginning of November increasing the death toll to 22 wolves this season in a months time. On the 7th of November a female wolf was shot in the largest national park of Finland Lemmenjoki national park where indigenous Sami reindeer herding takes place.

8 wolves have been shot since the 13th of October 2023 inside the two largest national parks of Finland. 8 more wolves have been shot with in imminent vicinity of national parks.

Between the end of October 2022 and the end of October 2023 reindeer herders killed 62 wolves in Finnish reindeer herding district. Since the winter 2019–2020 reindeer herders have killed around 130 wolves in Finnish reindeer herding district superseeding the number of wolves killed in legal license killing (kannanhoidollinen metsästys) in over a decade (2010–2023) that took place outside of reindeer herding district. Lapland and reindeer herding district has become a sink for wolf genetics.

Since the winter 2019–2020 reindeer herders have erased around 130 wolves from Finnish reindeer management area.

The annihilation of wolves in Finnish reindeer herding district is licensed by permits from The Finnish Wildlife Agency (Riistakeskus). Use of helicopters (usually 1), ATWs and snowmobiles are commonly authorized in the permits. In all of the instances mentioned above using a helicopter was allowed including killing wolves from a helicopter when in flight.

But finding how common the deliberate decimation of wolves using a helicopter was tougher than initially thought. To find out information requests were send to the authorities named responsible for supervising the permit killing in the permits authorised by The Finnish Wildlife Agency.

The 5 wolves killed on the 13th of October and one wolf killed on the 9th of October (furthest to the right) in the imminent vicinity of Urho Kekkonen national park and close to Värriö strict nature reserve. (Source: Riistakeskus)

Lapland Police Department denied access to information on the use of helicopters in culling Wolves in the incidents on the13th and the 20th of October. Lapland Boarder Guard District informed that they don’t obtain such information. Metsähallitus Wilderness supervision refused to answer the question, whether helicopters were used, and advised to seek answers from the authority authorising these permits: The Finnish Wildlife Agency. But also they stated they don't posses such information.

Authorities either denied access to information, refused to answer or didn't posses information on the use of helicopters in killing wolves.

Judging by the kill locations on the 13th and 20th of October erasing these wolf packs was precise and so concentrated that there is a high likely hood that a helicopter was used. According to independent sources some of these wolves met their maker by bullets shot from a flying helicopter or its imminent vicinity.

The 2 wolves killed in Urho Kekkonen national park on the 31st of October 2023. Indigenous Sami are no different in their relations to apex predators. Since the beginning of October at least 4 wolves have been shot in Sami reindeer herding district out of which 3 in national parks including these two wolves. (Source: Riistakeskus)

Permits to shoot at least 9 more wolves using a helicopter are still to be filled in reindeer herding area from Kuusamo to Enontekiö.

36% of the land mass of Finland – the reindeer management area – has become a pasture for a semidomesticated reindeed that can't handle predation. The "wild" has been bred away from Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer and they die en masse in a fashion not known in any wild Rangifer tarandus populations in the World. Decimating of wolves in Finnish national parks is status quo. This is biodiversity loss we are witnessing live from the North.

Can you taste the kerosene and lead in your sautéed reindeer? The taste of Lapland.

Bon appetit.



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