Conservation and hunting
Large carnivores are species that are strongly protected under the EU's Habitat Directive (92/43/EEC). However, the Directive does allow some exceptions when it comes to hunting. Non-endangered species – the brown bear and the lynx – may be hunted as part of population management, while the wolverine may only be hunted to kill animals that pose a danger or cause damages. When it comes to the wolf, the new management plan, which was approved in January 2015, includes wolf hunting as a tool of population management for the first time since 2007. The hunting will begin as a two-year trial, during which its effects on the wolf pack's viability, the behaviour of the animals and people's attitudes are studied.
The responsibility for the conservation and population management of large carnivores rests with the Finnish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, which decides the annual hunting quotas, based on which the Finnish Wildlife Agency may grant exceptional hunting permits by application. The Ministry's quotas are based on annual population estimates produced by Natural Resources Institute Finland. The quotas are set in such a way that the hunting does not affect the level of protection of any species.
Many different authorities, organisations and ordinary citizens interested in large carnivores participate in the conservation and management of predator populations. Well defined and planned hunting of large carnivores forms a part of successful population management and conservation efforts.
Population management plans for large carnivores
The views held by Finns are sometimes conflicting when it comes to the population management and conservation of large carnivores. In order to piece together these different views, national management plans are created.
Finland is bound by both national and international agreements to maintain healthy predator populations. Minimum viable population (MVP) is a concept used by zoologists to describe the minimum number of animals in a population that allows the species to survive into the future without going extinct. If the population of a species is too low, it is probably brought down by a combination of factors, even if everything seems to be fine on the surface.
Large carnivores are protected under the Finnish Hunting Act. They may only be hunted in limited numbers with exceptional permits. The Finnish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry sets annual quotas for the hunting of lynx, brown bear and wolf. So far, no exceptional permits have been issued for wolverine hunting.
Legislation and regulations
In Finland, the conservation and hunting of large carnivores is conducted according to national legislation and international agreements.
Large carnivore research
The main focuses of large carnivore research are population tracking and studying the animals' behaviour. In addition to mere numbers, population trackers also uncover the age structure, sex ratio and genetic makeup of our large carnivore populations. Research also yields insights into the animals' movement patterns, habitats, diets and reactions to human activities.
Sightings as the basis of population estimates
Natural Resources Institute Finland's (Luke) estimates on the numbers of animals are primarily based on sighting data collected by a volunteer organisation consisting of the contact persons of regional game management associations. Other utilised methods include on-the-ground censuses made by hunter...