On Wolves and How To Start A Fistfight in Norway

Norwegians are usually peaceful creatures. Much too peaceful, I would say, and way too patient. We rarely raise our voice while sober and most of us believe showing negative emotions are immature and childish.

But when it comes to wolves, everything changes. If you want to start a physical fight in Norway, you only need to bring up the subject of wolves, or more precisely, you need to say out loud that you want lots of wolves out in the Norwegian woods. If you do that, someone will probably stand up and call you names, while clenching his fists. Or, if it’s a woman, she will ask you if you want children to be killed by a pack of wolves.

Try bringing up the subject of wolves in a Norwegian dinner party. There is bound to be some idiot — I mean person — who will raise their voice and call you a «foolish, coffee latte drinking city dweller» who has never set foot out in the woods and knows nothing, and who should just shut up until you come to your senses and start supporting the extermination of all wolves. If you refuse to do so, be prepared to get physical and have your car vandalized if you get knocked out.

As you might have guessed, I am a supporter of a healthy natural world and since wolves obviously belong in the Norwegians woods, I believe we need to let the wolves live in peace. Also, wolves have such a central place in Norse mythology and they are essential to my identity as a modern Viking. A Norway without wolves would be a shameful, sad, and boring place.

Now, I do understand that there might be instances where it is necessary to shoot a wolf. For example, if I saw a wolf chase my dog, and I had a gun, I would shoot. I would hopefully remain sensible and shoot up in the air first, and that would probably scare the wolf away. That is at least what they do up in Svalbard, if the polar bears get too close, and it seems to work. But I would kill a wolf, or any living creature, man or beast, to save my dog. There is no doubt about that. However, what the wolf haters are aiming for is not the right to act in such unlikely events, but to kill every single wolf in Norway.

In most people’s minds, this is a conflict between the rural and the urban parts of Norway. In fact, this is not true at all. A majority of people living in rural Norway wants wolves. People in urban areas are a stastically a bit more positive to wolves, but the majority in both rural and urban areas are positive to wolves. There is, however, statistical evidence that suggests that people who have been hunting at least once during the last five years are more negative towards wolves than other people. Also, women and the elderly are more negative towards wolves than others. Politically, it seems the wolf haters are spread out quite evenly – only a few minor poltical parties are supporters of a healthy population of wolves in Norway. Most people who spend time out in the woods are supporters of wolves, though the minority who view nature as solely as a hunting ground is negative. However, the wolf haters dominate Norwegian mainstream media. It’s not so strange – mainstream media tends to write about the uncommon and they like to use either fear, sex or violence to convince people to buy their newspaper and keep them out of bankruptcy for yet another year. So while writing about wolves just being wolves out in the woods would be interesting to people like me, mainstream media would rather print an interview with an idiotic, old drunk who swears he saw a wolf lurking around his house. Journalists seem to have lost any sense of reason and will gladly print pictures of dog paws in the snow, claiming this as evidence for a population of hundreds or thousands of blood thirsty wolves who will gladly hunt down and eat little children or someone’s grandmother.

When the Norwegian government recently decided that «only» 15 and not 47 out of Norway’s 63 – sixty tree – wolves should be killed this year, the wolf haters loaded themselves into buses and drove those buses to Oslo to protest outside of the parliament. Nicknamed «The Idiot Express» and «The Banjo League», the busloads of wolf haters made such a stink that the government actually began to talk about «solutions», which means they are now trying to find ways to break international commitments and kill more wolves. That is not surprising. Norwegian politicians, with some exeptions, have always refused to understand how nature works and they lack the ability to view nature not as our property, but as something we are meant to preserve for generations to come. What is interesting, though, is that the real leaders of the wolf hater movement finally popped their ugly heads up – I guess they couldn’t resist the temptation of getting their ten minutes of fame. These people are wealthy landowners who make a lot of money by selling hunting permits. Since wolves prey on moose, these landowners lose money by having wolves in their woods. For these people, it’s all about the money. Also, some politicians are using this as a populist attempt to gain support from the wolf hater movement. To them, it’s about power, career and personal agenda. Add to these some local hunting heroes who are now feeding their sensational tales to hungry journalists, and you have a really nasty bunch of people who will fight you physically whenever they form groups of more than five or six people.

I won’t get into details about the tragedy that is modern Norwegian sheep farming. Wolves kill some sheep while the herds spend the summers out in the woods, but the percentage is very small. Ticks, bone fractures, infections, being hit by cars, etc. are what kill most of the sheep out in the woods. It’s much the same when it comes to hunting dogs. Far more dogs are shot by accident by hunters than those very few who are killed by wolves. So there is no sensible reason for anyone to hate wolves with such a passion as we’re now witnessing. I personally believe this conflict is not about wolves, but about two fundamentally different views on nature. The wolf haters belong to that group who believe nature is nothing more than an asset, and that its value can only be measured in square meters of timber, hunting and fishing permits etc. The other group view nature as something that must be respected and protected. We view nature as a living organism, and its value can’t and shouldn’t be measured. We believe we do not own nature. We belong to nature. And while the wolf haters seem to have a view of the natural world that’s straight out of an old Disney movie, those of who us who believe preservation of nature is important, tend to have a more realistic understanding and approach. When it comes to wolves, we know they go after the weak, injured, old and young, and it’s not pretty. This is how nature is designed, and wolves are predators. They would starve to death if they didn’t hunt. And by the way, they do not hunt for fun. Only humans do that.

-Bjørn Andreas Bull-Hansen