Statement for the European Commission on the Wolf Conservation Status Review
Helsingin eläinsuojeluyhdistys (Helsinki Humane Society) HESY ry
September 20th, 2023
we thank you for the opportunity to voice our views on wolf populations and their impact. As a non-profit organisation working in the field of animal welfare in Finland, we would like to state the following:
Regarding wolves in Finland
- The number of wolves in Finland is still well below the minimum genetically viable population as defined by Natural Resources Institute Finland – this means that the wolf continues to be critically endangered. In addition, Finnish wolves are essential for the survival of the small, isolated wolf populations in Sweden and Norway that already suffer from a high degree of inbreeding.
- The northern Finnish areas of reindeer husbandry have been cleared of all wolves already – that is an area of 122 936 square kilometres, or 36 % of the country – further hindering the movements of wolves within the country and between nation-states. This compounds the dangers to genetic diversity and species viability in both the southern Finnish wolves and the Swedish and Norwegian wolf populations.
- An issue often raised by Finnish hunters are the deaths of hunting dogs caused by large predators such as wolves, which, the hunters feel, constitutes a legitimate reason to call for culling of wolves. As per the information of the Finnish Kennel Club, wolves and other large predators are responsible for less than 0,1% of dog deaths. Owners of hunting dogs, however, are 100 % responsible for their own dogs, and, curiously, choose to subject them to pain, injuries, and even death by sharp branches, wire fences, prey animals, stray bullets, heat exhaustion, various infections, and so on, that are simply part and parcel of hunting.
We would also like to add that 12,5 % of reported dog deaths are caused by cars4, but we have yet to hear anyone call for a ban on cars.
- Damages to livestock caused by wolves are relatively rare in Finland, typically amounting to fewer than 50 cases per year. As an animal welfare organisation, we absolutely agree that every single case is a case too many. However, preventive measures such as secure fencing, guard dogs, and deterrents are not being employed diligently – or even at all – in Finland6. Just like the owner of a hunting dog is responsible for the safety and wellbeing of their dog, so are the owners of livestock responsible for the safety and wellbeing of their animals. Leaving the animals without sufficient protection and supervision and then crying wolf is to refuse responsibility.
- Wolves have always been a part of the Finnish wilderness and are considered a keystone species in our ecosystem. Finnish nature quite simply needs them. We do not have enough wolves (see points 1 and 2).
Regarding wolves in general
As we are sure the Commission is aware, and many interested parties have already let you know, killing wolves is not an efficient way to prevent damages, and in many cases may even backfire   . Killing may be an understandable knee-jerk reaction, but it is not a sensible course of action. What we need is education and support for the people of Europe to keep their animals safe following the best possible practices. As the Commission itself noted in the press release, conflicts with local farming and hunting communities happen especially where measures to prevent attacks on livestock are not widely implemented.
The science on wolves, wolf attacks and wolf/livestock/human co-existence is clear – deter, safeguard, and deter again – which is why we urge you to first and foremost implement non-lethal measures to prevent wolf attacks.
The Finnish ecosystem needs wolves, the European ecosystem needs wolves, and we humans need a thriving ecosystem to survive on this planet.
Helsinki Humane Society HESY ry
 Stenøien, H. K., Sun, X., Martin, M. D., Scharff-Olsen, C. H., Alonso, G. H., Martins, N. F. G., & Gilbert, M. T. P. (2021). Genetisk opphav til den norsksvenske ulvestammen (Canis lupus lupus). NTNU Vitenskapsmuseet naturhistorisk rapport. Available online at: https://ntnuopen.ntnu.no/ntnu-xmlui/handle/11250/2987985 English summary on page 4.