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  • Writer's pictureAntti Haataja

Of decimating Wolves in Lapland



Between the end of October 2022 and the end of April 2023 reindeer herders killed 47 wolves in Finnish reindeer herding district.


Wolves are decimated because the ability of tame reindeer to coexist with a wild ecosystem has been selectively bred away yet tame reindeer are allowed to roam free in Lapland – which roughly equals the reindeer herding district. Thus tame reindeer get killed by large predators in quantities and frequencies that is unknown in wild reindeer populations (Rangifer tarandus fennicus / Rangifer tarandus caribou) with top predators.


Large scale wolf extermination creates a problem for Wolf genetics, gene flow and ultimately for Wolf conservation status in Northern Europe.


A male Wolf first known from a DNA sample (16.1.2022) from Kemilä Wolf pack in Utajärvi killed by reindeer herders in Ranua a year later (17.12.2022). Source: Luonnonvarakeskus


10 out of 45 registered DNA samples from those 47 Wolves killed in reindeer herding district in 2022–2023 were known to be Wolves dispersed from Finnish Wolf population outside of reindeer herding district – the Finnish Wolf pool. Thus 22% of all known and DNA listed Wolves killed in reindeer herding district were from the Finnish Wolf pool.


Mortality of Wolves with known origin in Finnish Wolf pool by reindeer herders in reindeer herding district in 2022–2023. Source: Luonnonvarakeskus


In 2021–2022 reindeer herders killed 23 Wolves in reindeer herding district out of which 39% (9 individuals) were known to have dispersed from the Finnish Wolf pool.


Mortality of Wolves with known origin in Finnish Wolf pool by reindeer herders in reindeer herding district in 2021–2022. Source: Luonnonvarakeskus


Lapland – reindeer herding district – restricts Wolf dispersion from Finnish Wolf pool ("east") to Swedish/Norwegian Wolf pool ("west"). And vice versa.


East–West dispersal is essential with long term genetic viability of these Wolf populations. With out sufficient gene flow these Wolf pools become poor making them vulnerable to extinction.


At the moment neither the west or the east Wolf pool is above genetically minimum viable population threshold but below it with very substantial margins.


Reindeer herding districts in Finland, Sweden and Norway are a sink for Wolf genetics in Northern Europe.

Swedish and Norwegian Lapland are similarly tame reindeer herding districts where all Wolves are exterminated.


Statistics from Finland reveal that Wolves are killed in Kuusamo and Lapland en masse. Reindeer herding poses a significant barrier to Wolf gene flow in Northern Europe and thus make the east and west Wolf pools vulnerable to extinction.

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