The wolf is listed in Annex IV and V of the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC) as well as in Appendix II of strictly protected fauna species of the Bern Convention. Wolves live in packs, usually as a pair and their offspring, in territories averaging 1 000 km2. The wolfs primary prey in European boreal forests is moose (Alces alces) but it also hunts other undulates. Functionally, Finlands wolf population plays an important role by linking Russian and Scandinavian wolf population. The wolf is endangered in most recolonised regions, and classified in Finland as such according to the IUCN Red List. There are fewer than 25 breeding packs in the country, below the estimated minimum viable population.
In the past 10 years, the range of the breeding wolf population has expanded across Europe, including into human- dominated landscapes in Southern and Western Finland, after an absence of over 100 years. This has resulted in several conflict situations. Finnish wolf policy is hampered by incompatibility between government policies, administration practices, wildlife research methods and civil society. In addition, polarised media presentation exacerbates these issues, leading to strong calls for wolf hunting and illegal killing, as well as fear of wolves, unwillingness to share ungulate game with wolves and mistrust of official wolf population estimates. Collectively, these result in persistent societal problems and indirectly represent a major threat to wolf conservation.
The overall goal of LIFE BOREALWOLF is to enhance the long-term status of the wolf and maintain the long-term population viability of the species in Finland through improved coexistence between humans and large carnivores. This involves maintaining a minimum of 25 wolf family packs (as defined in the national population management plan) in Finland and stabilising the breeding population in the long-term.
The main project objectives are:
- reducing societal tension by increasing public acceptance of wolves;
- mitigating negative aspects of wolf presence (i.e. fear, harm to livestock and dogs); creating tools to reduce illegal killing.
This will be achieved though:
- improved awareness of biodiversity, habitat and natural synergies;
- developing more efficient harm and damage mitigation approaches;
- building collaborative relationships between civil society, government, wildlife administrations, research and management.
- improved conservation status of the wolf in Finland, resulting in a minimum viable population of 25 reproducing packs;
- DNA-based pack monitoring applied in at least 15 territories;
- new tools for controlling illegal killing and a formal decision support based on a management strategy evaluation;
- new large carnivore observer education material, online course and certificate, along with a volunteer network;
- a multispecies approach for ungulate harvest management for wolf areas;
- toolbox of best practices to protect domestic animals from wolves, tailored for Finnish conditions;
- damage prevention tools for livestock and protective gear for dogs;
- 110 schools visited as part of producing environmental education material on wolves for schoolteachers.