Bear hunting

Bear hunting has seen a resurgence of sorts in Finland. As the brown bear population has grown, hunters from a wider area now have the chance to participate in bear hunting. Bear hunting skills have remained intact in eastern and northern Finland. Elsewhere there has been a lull in the tradition and it is being revived by training hunters.

A dead, bloody bear lies on its stomach in the woods, on a tussock. Hunted bear. Photo. Ari Väisänen.

A bear hunting dog is the hunter's trusted aide

Dogs have always helped humans hunt bears. During the last decade the breeding of bear hunting dogs has been on the rise in Finland and hunters and breeders have been trying to find suitable dogs from various breeds. A successful bear hunt is based on following the bear's activities even before the hunting season begins.

The hunters attempt to arrange the situation in such a way that the dog may be released on fresh bear tracks. The shooters are positioned to lie in wait along the bear's predicted paths. If the bear is stopped by the dog's bark, the dog handler may try to sneak in closer to get a clear shot. However, usually the bear doesn't stick around to listen to the dog but instead tries to make a run for it. In these situations the awaiting shooters might get a chance to shoot.

Another popular method of bear hunting is lying in wait along bear paths. From late August onwards, bears begin to feed actively in order to build a fat layer for the winter. They move back and forth between their feeding spots and their resting places, creating visible paths in the terrain.

The bears like to rest during the day and return to their feeding spot in the evening. The hunter positions himself upwind along a path created by the bear long before dusk. This position can be on the ground or in a lookout tower. Using a lookout tower has the advantages of a clearer view of the surrounding terrain and the fact that the hunter's smells are carried away from the bear's sensitive nose more effectively.

Bear hunting is strictly regulated

A hunter who means to participate in a bear hunt must first pass a shooting test. The bear test consists of shooting four shots at a stationary bear figure in 90 seconds. All shots must hit a target area that is 17 centimetres in diameter.

The brown bear is a strictly protected species and its hunting is regulated by the Habitats Directive of the European Union. The bear population in Finland is large enough so that its size may be controlled by hunting as defined in official population management plans.

The maximum hunting quota set by the Finnish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry limits the Finnish Wildlife Agency's mandate to grant exceptional permits for hunting bears for the purposes of population management.

Bear hunting season begins every year on August 20th. In a reindeer herding region, bear hunting takes place according to quotas defined for the eastern and western herding areas. Elsewhere in Finland, bear hunting is only possible with an exceptional permit granted on application. A hunted bear must be reported to the Finnish Wildlife Agency immediately in a reindeer herding region. Elsewhere in Finland, a hunted bear must be reported to the Finnish Wildlife Agency and the police on the first weekday after the kill, at the latest.

Driving a bear out of its den or shooting a bear inside its den is forbidden. Using a food-related bait is also forbidden, which means that hunters cannot use of carcasses or unharvested grain fields as hunting aids, for example. A female bear and its young cubs (under a year old) are always protected.

Bear meat must be checked for trichinosis prior to consumption. If parts of the bear are to be sold, a CITES permit must be obtained from the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE). To get this permit, the hunter must present a certificate from the Finnish Wildlife Agency that proves the bear was hunted legally.

In terms of bear hunting outside a reindeer herding region, the exceptional permit’s recipient must appoint a hunting leader and the necessary number of deputy leaders. Among other things, the hunting leader must plan the practical hunting events, provide the participants with the necessary hunting instructions and their accompanying safety measures, and see to that the exceptional permit’s conditions and hunting regulations are adhered to.

Learn more about bear hunting regulations in Finland ( (in Finnish)

Follow the annual bear hunting (

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Management plan for the Finnish brown bear population

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