On 22.01.2015 the Finnish Ministry of Agriculture has put the new wolf management plan into force, according to which up to 29 wolves can be killed this year for "population management". The Wildlife Agency claims, according to EU legislation, "population management" hunting is legal if a management plan exists, the conservation status is not worsened and no other satisfactory solutions exist.
The claim of the Wildlife Agency in this case is not correct. In it's decision C-342/05 the EU Court of Justice clarified:
28§: Article 16(1) of the directive makes the favorable conservation status of the populations of the species concerned in their natural range a necessary precondition in order for the derogations for which it provides to be granted (see Case C-508/04 Commission v Austria  ECR I-0000, paragraph 115).
29§: None the less, the grant of such derogations remains possible by way of exception where it is duly established that they are not such as to worsen the unfavorable conservation status of those populations or to prevent their restoration at a favorable conservation status. [...]
This means, for "population management" hunting, the species must have reached "Favorable Conservation Status". If the species does not have reached "Favorable Conservation Status", derogations are only possible in strictly defined exceptions, e.g. if an individual causes significant damage to lifestock or pet animals and even then only if the derogation does not worsen the unfavorable conservation status.
25 breeding pairs?
The new Finnish Wolf Management Plan sets a goal of 25 breeding pairs. On this subject we talked to Dr. Eeva Jansson, biologist, genetics expert and author of the 2013 study "Past and present genetic diversity and structure of the Finnish wolf population".
Jansson confirmed that according to the classical "50/500 rule", there should be 25 breeding pairs (50 breeding individuals). However, that is only valid if those are not interrelated and those 25 breeding pairs are the absolute minimum to guarantee short term viability and prevent significant inbreeding. According to the applicable EU guidelines, for "Favorable Conservation Status", the effective size of the population is relevant. Dr. Jansson pointed out that based on the relationships and level of inbreeding of the Finnish wolf population found in her study, the effective population size for Finland would be a minimum of 521 individuals.
Jansson explains: "This is because our genetic studies showed that individuals in the Finnish population tend to be more or less related nowadays and assumption of non-relatedness of breeding individuals is not necessarily valid. Please check the concept of 'effective population size' if you are not familiar with it because this truly is often the scientific validation (or not) for management. This classical genetic rule of thumb is often criticized being too small (and misused as a guideline even for long-term management and as a goal, which should be instead an effective size of at least 500, corresponding often to a few thousand individuals as a census size = number of individuals). A recent study by Frankham et al. therefore propose this to be raised to 100/1000 -rule. In a non-inbred population this would mean ~50 breeding pairs."
In summary, the Finnish Wildlife Agency has been manipulating facts, using absolute minimum values as guideline for long term management and even used those wrong. Consequently, every population management derogation based on this management plan is illegal and in direct violation of the EU habitat directive.
According to Prof. Heikki Kulla, professor for administrative law at the University of Turku, any government official who makes a decision in violation of EU law can be prosecuted for dereliction of duty (penal code, section 40, §10) and/or abuse of office (penal code section 40, §7), in addition to potential civil charges and compensations.
Abuse of the police
In section 4.1 of the wolf management plan, a strong integration of the police is advised. Appendix 5 specifies this further and suggests issuing of termination warrants through the police if wolves come closer than 100m to inhabited buildings. The ministry and the Wildlife Agency attempt here to delegate some of the killing to the police, well-knowing that the police does not fall under the hunting law and therefore is not subject to any maximum quota for termination warrants such as there is for derogations by the Wildlife Agency, according to the hunting law, wolf management plan and applicable decrees. This is a very obvious and deliberate attempt to circumvent EU regulations. As the police does not maintain a central register for termination warrants, does not publish termination warrants and according to Susilauma's research, often does not even put termination warrants in writing, this can also only be seen as an attempt to hide the actual number of killed wolves.
In Susilauma's case analysis of the Vehmaa wolf case, it became already clear that
- The mere fact that a wolf comes closer than 100m to buildings does not indicate any kind of danger to human life or health which is the necessary precondition for a police termination warrant
- Therefore, police termination warrants issued merely on the basis of the animal coming closer than 100m to buildings or even people without actually confronting humans are not justified by police law 2:16§ and therefore illegal
Ban of wolf dogs
In section 7.4 of the wolf management plan, the Wildlife Agency furthermore plans the restriction and finally ban of wolf dogs as pets, despite the fact that by their own admission (see section 7.3) wolf dogs in the nature are extraordinarily rare in Finland and that by their own admission the demand for wolf dog puppies is much higher than the available supply, means, the animals have a very high value for their owners and therefore are exceptionally well taken care of. The Wildlife Agency tries to substantiate the proposal by quoting the 34th meeting of the Standing Committee of the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats.
However, in this conference primarily the problems of hybridization between wild wolves and domestic dogs was discussed. Problems which primarily occur in poor countries in Southern and Eastern Europe where large amounts of dogs live half wild on the streets and often mate with wolves.
Transferring conclusions from the situation in those countries to Finland is absurd and ridiculous and not by any standard sufficient justification to take beloved pets away from thousands of families.
- There is absolutely no proof that pet wolf dogs ever became wild wolf dogs in Finland or other highly civilized countries
- Pet wolf dogs are in no way dangerous. No attacks from pet wolf dogs on humans are known in Finland
- Even extremely dangerous dogs which have attacked and even killed many people worldwide and which are highly regulated or banned in most other European countries, like Pitbulls or Staffordshire Terriers, are not regulated in Finland but harmless wolf dogs should be?
- There is no factual justification whatsoever for banning pet wolf dogs
Additionally, the proposal does not clearly define "wolf dogs", so it is well possible that the ministry will follow the examples of Denmark and Norway and ban all wolf dogs, including established and recognized pet and working dog breeds like Saarloos Wolfhond and Československý Vlčák.
Petteri Orpo, current Minister for Agriculture and Forestry has often talked about "compromises" and "raising social acceptance of wolves".
However, this is nothing but a huge smokescreen to try and validate a not-so-secret-anymore and illegal extinction war against wolves. According to careful estimations, in the years before, about 30 wolves per year have been illegally killed by poachers. Permitting the killing of 29 wolves per year in addition to derogations for reindeer herders and "problem wolves" hardly is a compromise.
This is especially true when at the same time the police is encouraged to issue termination warrants without factual justification and the justice system hands absurdly low sentences, which have no actual punishment value, to poachers. One poacher has already announced - in the news of the Finnish state TV "YLE" - that he will continue killing wolves illegally.
Additionally, Minister Orpo has announced "faster reactions" to "problem wolves". Already now, the Wildlife Agency maintains the so called 100m-rule after which an exempt hunting license can be granted if a wolf comes closer than 100m to buildings. A rule, which is - again - in direct violation of the EU legislation which only allows derogations for wolves which have caused "significant damage" to lifestock or pet animals. An internal training document of the Wildlife Agency revealed that the Agency even sees social reasons such as fear as a justification for derogations, which - of course - is again a violation of EU law.
At the same time, the Wildlife Agency and Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry continue to do nothing habit changing. No plans for educational measures have been announced. No campaigns to raise social acceptance for the wolves. The mere permission to kill wolves won't do anything to raise social acceptance for them. Neither will the issuing of fear-based termination warrants by the police.
Every parent knows that taking the object of fear away from a child only validates it's fear. So, in the end, granting a massive amount of permissions to kill wolves will only validate the fear of the people because they will think "oh, the police kills every wolf which comes closer than 100m to buildings, so I am right to be afraid that wolves will steal my children from the garden."
There is no compromise. A compromise would be to grant very limited hunting permits restricted to areas with extreme human-wolf conflicts while at the same time starting education campaigns to educate people about nature, behavior and dangers (or lack thereof) of wolves.
Additionally in a populist attempt to address extremists' spreading rumors and fears about alleged wild wolf-dog hybrids, the Wildlife Agency plans to ban completely harmless wolf dogs and take thousands of beloved pets away from their families.
So, while the Wildlife Agency and the ministry ignore and violate binding EU regulations for the protection of the wolves, they try to apply non-binding results from an arbitrary scientific conference which addressed a totally different angle to pet wolf dogs.
In all likelihood, taking poaching, the derogations for "problem wolves", the derogations in the reindeer husbandry areas and the experiences with police termination warrants into account, in 2015 up to 100 wolves or even more will be killed in Finland - more than ever before in modern times.
- EU Court of Justice decision C-342/05 - Commission of the European Communities v Republic of Finland
25 breeding pairs?
- Eeva Jansson, Past and present genetic diversity and structure of the Finnish wolf population, University of Oulu, 2013
- Guillaume Chapron, Challenge the abuse of science in setting policy, Nature 12/2014
- Linnel et. al., Guidelines for Population Level Management Plans for Large Carnivores, Trondheim, 2008
- Bradshaw, We’re sorry, but 50/500 is still too few, ConservationBytes, 01/2014
- Traill et. al., Pragmatic population viability targets in a rapidly changing world, Biological Conservation 143 (2010) 28–34
- Frankham et. al., Genetics in conservation management: Revised recommendations for the 50/500 rules, Red List criteria and population viability analyses, Biological Conservation 170 (2014) 56–63
Abuse of the police
- Susilauma: Suspended sentences in Finland's first big wolf poaching proceedings
- YLE Uutiset: Tupakantumppi paljasti osuuden Perhon salakaatoon – "Kyllä minä vielä susia ammun"
- Kainuun Sanomat: Orpo: Häirikkösusien kaatolupiin rivakkuutta