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During the nineteenth century, the large predators of Finland- wolf, bear, lynx, and wolverine- were exterminated in the southern and western regions of the country. There were almost no lynx by the late 1950s, but a protection order issued in 1968 has resulted in a steady increase in their number, to about 300 by 1980. There was a breeding population of wolverines until the late 1960s, but in the 1970s, most were killed by snowmobiles, and only 10-30 are now thought to inhabit the frontiers between Finland and the USSR, and Finland and Norway. Bears, in the 1970s, tended to immigrate into Finland from the east; currently, the population is about 300. Since 1980, the wolf population has also expanded because of movements from the east and, in Finland, their current total is about 100. However, movement from other countries cannot be used as a long-term solution to maintaining and increasing the numbers of large predators in Finland, since predator populations in these countries cannot be expected to expand sufficiently to compel large-scale migrations. Rather, the maintenance of stable predator populations in Finland must depend on their adaptation to relatively settled areas and acceptance by local populations. The wolf and lynx have shown considerable adaptation; the wolverine and bear have not. Also, hostile attitudes toward predators like wolves, based largely on fairy tales and overblown news items, must continue to change, and change rapidly, if these animals are to be preserved.


This paper was prepared for and presented at the 1980 Annual Conference of the Canadian Nature Federation, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, 29 August 1980, and is Report No. 111 from the Värriö Subarctic Research Station of the University of Helsinki.