How many wolves do we have?
Written by Nicklas Iversen | Last edited 8. June 2021
As of winter 2020/2021, we have 109 – 114 wolves in Norway. Of these, 57 - 58 are fully Norwegian, while the remaining 52– 56 wolves live along the Norwegian-Swedish border and regularly move between the two countries.
Two hundred years ago, we had far more wolves than we do today. There were wolves throughout Scandinavia, and the population extended north into Russia and Sweden. In 1845, a law was passed in Norwat that aimed to wipe out predators, with a large bounty being promised to anyone who shot a wolf. There were also very few large prey animals like moose left.
This made it difficult for many predators to survive. Especially in winter. The so-called ‘war on the predator’ lasted around a hundred years, and the wolf was as good as extinct in Scandinavia by the 1960s.
The wolf was protected in 1973, in Norway.
THE WOLF RETURNS
In the 1980s, a small band of Finnish-Russian wolves settled in Scandinavia. There were never more than 10 wolves in the 1980s. In 1990, a new male wolf arrived from Finland/Russia. A new family emerged and the wolf population began to grow. In Norway, we got our first fully Norwegian wolf pack in 1997.
To date, only five wolves have immigrated into Scandinavia and formed the basis for all the wolves we have here. We have learned this by collecting DNA over several years. Because the wolves in Scandinavia come from so few ancestors, there is a lot of inbreeding among them. Inbreeding means individuals who are related having offspring together. This is bad, as it can lead to various disorders.
THE WOLF POPULATION TODAY
In recent years, there have been roughly a hundred wolves in total in Norway, and about three hundred in Sweden. So there are around four hundred wolves in total in Scandinavia. The numbers for the wolf population can vary, as it depends on whether you just count wolves that live entirely in Norway, whether you count the wolves that live on both sides of the Swedish border, or whether you divide them equally between the two countries. The different counting methods create a bit of confusion.
This article has been written by Bjørn Henrik Stavdal Johansen, a nature guide at Visitor Centre Carnivore Flå.