The extinction of the Norwegian wolf

The wolves found today in Norway and Sweden are actually Finnish. Why? Because the native variety disappeared years ago, leaving no genetic trace. It seems to have happened around 1970. This proves the extinction of the Norwegian wolf.

The extinction of the Norwegian wolf is genetically proven.
The extinction of the Norwegian wolf is genetically proven.

Very complete report

“The original Norwegian-Swedish wolves no longer exist here,” says Hans Stenoien. He is director of the Museum of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).

The report deals with the genetic composition of the Norwegian-Swedish wolf population. “It is the world’s largest genetic study of wolves,” says Stenoien. This large report on the wolf in Norway was commissioned by the Storting (Parliament) in 2016.

“There are some original Norwegian-Swedish wolves in zoos outside Norway. Our wolves today are not related to them,” Stenoien says in a statement.

The wolf arrived in Norway when the ice retreated about 12,000 years ago. It disappeared from the Norwegian landscape, and probably from Sweden, around 1970. High hunting pressure and conflicts with agriculture in particular contributed to its decline.

The Norwegian wolf became extinct, and the present wolf came from Finland
The Norwegian wolf became extinct and the present wolf came from Finland.

Migrating wolves

But apparently the species re-established itself around 1980. “The wolves in Norway and Sweden come from wolves that migrated from Finland”. This is what Professor Stenoien says.

The wild wolves in the region come from a very small number of Finnish animals. Thus, genetic defects spread faster from one generation to the next. Unfavourable genes are not effectively eliminated by natural selection.

“This lack of variation makes wolves vulnerable. They are attacked by various diseases and hereditary conditions,” explains Stenoien.

The extinction of the Norwegian wolf is a warning sign. The one that exists today now faces risks due to inbreeding. And it could disappear again.

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