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Nature News
by Marlene Harris

Winter 2001   —   More Trouble for Wolves

In Canada…

A report by the Raincoast Conservation Society has revealed the precarious state of the rare "rainforest wolf." Scientists suspect this wolf is genetically unique, small, with coarse hair, reddish–hued. In addition, these wolves are strong swimmers, and don’t avoid water, as do most other wolves.

These wolves are found in the Great Bear Rainforest, an area containing the largest tract of contiguous ancient temperate rainforest left on Earth. Covering the central and north coast of British Columbia from Knight Inlet to the Alaskan border, this temperate rainforest supports Canada's largest grizzly bears, the rare white spirit bear and hundreds of genetically unique races of Pacific salmon.

The rainforest wolf is low in number, below 500, and preys mainly on deer. Logging, mainly clear cutting, continues to occur in the region, and the report expresses concern that this logging activity will cause deer numbers to fall, which in turn will affect the wolves. The report goes on to say that all clear cutting should be halted, especially in view of the fact that the rainforest wolf could be considered an endangered species.

Logging officials who were contacted, basically felt "further study" on the issue was necessary. One official, who refused to express his opinion publically, did tell one journalist that clear cutting was good for the deer, because "as the new growth came up, the deer would have more to eat." (It is needless to say why this individual refused to make this comment publically!)

In Europe…

Wolves were hunted almost to extinction in the region until 1981 when the law finally offered complete protection. Since that time, there has been a modest increase in the number of animals. Today, there are approximately 9 resident packs in the region. In Norway, residents are worried about the increase in number, citing potential dangers to children and livestock. In Sweden, the reaction to the situation has been far different: officials say the number is still far too low to ensure survival of the species and complete protection must continue.

In 2000, the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research announced it might authorize the killing of two packs, or approximately 18 wolves. (This number would translate into almost 25% of southern Scandinavia’s entire population.)

The reaction in Sweden, and elsewhere was swift, condemning Norway’s decision. Swedish conservationists were especially harsh in their criticism, pointing out that wolves travel freely between the two countries, whereby making this unilateral decision to eradicate such a high number, unacceptable.

Opposition has even been expressed within Norway itself: the country’s second largest paper warned the Norwegian government, that the country, already heavily criticized for its refusal to end commercial whaling, would be viewed even more harshly by world opinion, if they proceeded with the plan. One essayist wrote: "The world will see Norway as a land of crazy Vikings and barbarians."

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