Estonia has, once again, begun culling its wolf population. A specified number of wolves are killed in the Baltic country every year, though this time around conservationists are worried.
Concerns have been raised that the science behind the cull is shaky, and that killing wolves may drive them to harmful behaviors against humans.
Estonia’s Environmental Agency has set the cull quota at 144, claiming there are more wolves in the country than conservation plans permit.
However, Maris Hindrikson, wolf researcher at the University of Tartu, tells Euronews she and fellow scientists are not convinced about their data. This means that the cull quota could be far too high, potentially disrupting the whole population.
She claims the wolf population is being calculated based on old fashioned and unsystematic techniques – such as hunter observations – that may not accurately reflect the number of wolves inside Estonia.
The problem is we simply don’t know how many wolves there are, Hindrikson says, estimating the cull could wipe out up to 30% of the country’s entire wolf population.
In a statement sent to Euronews, the Estonian Environmental Agency said its methodology was in use in Nordic countries like Sweden, Finland and Norway.
We find the current methodology to be comprehensive, objective and appropriate.
Even though wolf numbers have recovered in recent years, their total number is considered stable/decreasing by the International Wolf Center. Estimates put their total population at between 150 – 300 in Estonia.
Authorities claim culls are needed as wolves attack livestock, especially sheep, hitting the country’s farmers economically. A total of 946 sheep were killed by predatory wolves in 2022, according to Estonia’s Environmental Board (Keskonnaamet).
That figure has exceeded 1,100 this year, with several weeks of 2023 still to go.
One particularly grizzly attack at a farm in southeastern Tartu County killed an entire breeding flock of more than a dozen ewes in October, with farmer Rein Mirka telling Estonian Public Broadcasting (ERR) the incident had cost him between €15,000 to €20,000.
Hindrikson still questions whether culling is the best approach to the problem. Science has always shown that culling actually does not help reduce sheep deaths, she tells Euronews.
As habitats are lost – limiting the food resources on offer – Hindrikson claims lethal solutions may be counterproductive, driving wolves to hunt livestock in the first place.
Green Euro News / ABC Flash Point News 2023.