1 Introduction P3
2 Itinerary P5
3 Forestry in Norway P7
4 Land and Wildlife Management in Norway
5 Deer management
6 A Comparison of the Hunting Cultures in Norway and Scotland
7 Herbivore impacts in Norway & Scotland
8 Reintroduction of carnivores to Scotland: What can we learn from the Norwegian experience?
Six of us, with various backgrounds in wildlife and forest management participated in a study exchange to Norway between 24th & 30th May 2013. The trip was organised by Libby Urquhart of Archnetwork and funded by the Leonardo da Vinci Fund. We are grateful to both for giving us the opportunity to participate in the trip.
Our aim was to learn and see how Norway manages its wildlife and land and to compare this with Scotland. We all shared experiences and thoughts between ourselves, with the people we met and with our Norwegian hosts.
Our hosts were based at the Evenstad campus of the University of Hedmark, home to the Department of Forestry and Wildlife Management, located in the south east of Norway. A day before our arrival, the campus had been cut off by significant flooding with the River Glomma having burst its banks after heavy rain and snow-melt. Houses had been washed away and flooded fields and mud lined the sides of the swollen river. Fortunately we arrived just as the flood waters were starting to retreat and so were able to access the campus.
Our main host was Marius Kjonsberg. He played an active role in wildlife management and was a keen hunter. He was very informed, knowledgeable and interested in how we did things in Scotland. Our other guide, Floris, had an intimate knowledge of and passion for the wildlife of Norway and was a very talented and enthusiastic guide and photographer. We are very grateful to both for their energy, commitment, knowledge, enthusiasm and sense of fun. We were given talks by other students and staff based at Evenstad to whom we are also grateful.
The six participants were (from L to R) Lyndsay Mackinlay, Russell Cooper, Jessica Findlay, Fraser Robertson, Graeme Prest and Paul Thompson. We all very much enjoyed the trip, learnt loads and are keen to return to Norway at some point!
Below we have divided all that we learnt into six categories, each picking up the main themes of Norway’s approach to its forest and wildlife management. Whilst we have tried to be as factual as possible, it is hard to retain all the specific details that we were told over the 6 days and so there may be some ‘interpretations’. However the report does sum up our thoughts and insights from the trip.
Day 1: Norwegian Forestry Museum
Day 2: Moose Safari
Travel to Dovre National Park
Day 3: Norwegian Wild Reindeer Centre
Meeting with wildlife manager at Folldal
Day 4: Talks from participants on managing Scotland’s wildlife and forestry
Talks on ‘Nest predation’ & ‘Predators in Norway & how to live with them’
Fieldtrip to a bear’s winter lair
Day 5: Talk on ‘Forestry in Norway’ and on research into effects of population cycles
of voles on wider ecosystem
Field trip to area where Black Grouse & Capercaillie being studied
Day 6: Meeting with management of a moose region in the lowlands
Field trip to look at moose damage
3. FORESTRY IN NORWAY
Graeme Prest (Forest District Manager, FCS, Inverness)
Overview – real landscape scale
The most immediate, and obvious difference, between the landscapes of Norway and Scotland is the proportion of forest. In the part of Norway which we visited most of the land is clothed in forest with fields along the river valleys. Scotland is almost a complete mirror image being mostly open country consisting of moorland and farmland with isolated forests and woods. Forest is contiguous from Norway, across Sweden to Russia as part of the great taiga of the north. The scale is immense and puts what we describe as “big forests”, such as the pinewoods in the Cairngorms and Glen Affric in context. I have come back to Scotland thinking that we need to be more ambitious in expanding and joining together our bigger forests at a true landscape scale. There is considerable evidence that “bigger is better” for wildlife (eg Lawton review “Making Space for Nature”) and it could be argued that it would better to focus resources on large scale rather than lots of small new woodland schemes. This could have particular benefits for nature, especially declining species such as Capercaillie which are vulnerable, for example to climate change, and at the same time provide a more “wild” experience for people along with timber products and hunting. It could also make the prospects of re-introducing larger predators, such as Lynx, more likely as perceived conflict with livestock would be less. In Scotland there is an increasing recognition of the value of wild land, for example SNH’s recent consultation on designating wild land areas. These tend to be areas of open moorland and mountain. Experience in Norway makes you question whether more areas of forest and potentially expanded native forests, as part of a “wild” landscape, should be designated?
Comparing the drivers in forestry
It was interesting that both state and private forestry is driven primarily be economics in Norway, and that the forests are managed in the same way. Timber prices and small round wood capacity have a big impact on how much thinning is undertaken. Norway is losing capacity, with one of the few pulp mills closing. The only real alternative is export to Sweden, with increased transport costs, and exports are expensive due to Norways strong currency. The net effect is a reduction in thinning. Only around half the total increment (22 million m3) is harvested each year. In Scotland there is a healthy timber processing industry, with considerable investment over the last few decades. Demand for small round wood is high (for manufacturing and woodfuel) allowing more woods to be thinned. There is generally a distinct difference between state and private forests in Scotland. State forests, managed by the Forestry Commission, have a wider remit and are expected to deliver a broad range of economic, social and environmental objectives, often termed multi-purpose forestry.
From plantation to forests in Scotland – lessons from Norway
Many of the forests in Scotland are new plantations established on open land during the last 60 to 70 years or so. These plantations are steadily becoming forests with restructuring of the age class through felling, and increasing natural regeneration. There is still a strong reliance on replanting after clearfelling, often as a pure species, rather than in a mixture. Prior to felling the species pattern is chosen as part of the long term management plan. There is a tendency to impose the species identified in the plan and to see natural regeneration of other species as a problem. In Norway, with an unbroken history of forest on the land, there is usually considerable natural regeneration of mainly Scots pine and birch. This is accepted and enriched with planting, usually of Norway spruce. This creates a more mixed forest and reduces establishment costs. It is recommended that this approach is applied more to our forests in Scotland. Given the increasing issue of tree diseases in Scotland, this would reduce the risk of losing a whole stand to disease.
Economic value of birch
It was also notable that birch is managed along with the pine and spruce and harvested as part of the crop in Norway. Straightness and girth were both better than in Scotland but there must be greater potential to utilise the increasing area of birch forest, particularly given the expanding small round wood and fuel markets.
Grazing damage to young trees is an issue in both Norway and Scotland. In Norway, moose numbers have increased significantly due to a move to more clearcutting in the 1970’s (providing more browse) followed by less clearcutting and shooting of young adults and calves rather than adults. Currently fencing is not used in Norway to protect young trees. We visited an area where there is very heavy browsing damage which is preventing the forest from re-establishing due to a large over wintering population. An experiment on temporary enclosure is planned but there is uncertainty on the likely effectiveness and also concern about cost. In Scotland, deer fencing is used extensively along boundaries between landowners with different objectives (Red deer sporting interests and nature conservation/forest regeneration) and sometimes to protect individual areas for regeneration/planting. This can increase pressure on the unfenced area, is expensive, difficult to maintain and can cause heavy casualties of grouse. In both countries fencing is very much a temporary and sub-optimal solution. The only real solution is neighbouring landowners working co-operatively to manage the moose/deer population so that it is in balance with the habitat – not easy ! It would also be interesting to model what impact re-introduction of predators to Scotland, such as Lynx, would have on populations, particularly of Roe Deer which is the main prey species.
Overall, I was struck by how Norwegians are much more connected to nature and see their forests as a resource which everyone can use.
4. LAND AND WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT IN NORWAY
Jessica Findlay (Wildlife Management Team, SNH)
Norway covers an area of 148,000 sq miles and has a population of 5 million. It has a population density of 15 people per sq km. Scotland has a population density of 65 per sq km. Norway’s relatively sparse population, combined with its legal structures, cultural identity, climate and geography have produced ways of managing land and wildlife which, whilst it has similarities to Scotland, is also strikingly different.
Land Ownership & Community Involvement
In Norway the extent of private land ownership is far lower than in Scotland (83% of rural land in Scotland is privately owned). In Norway land tends to be divided into smaller land parcels and there are not the big estates that we have in Scotland. Like Scotland the right to hunt belongs to the landowner. However the way in which management decisions are made is different. Each county is divided up into municipalities or ‘kommunes’. Strategic direction is decided by the state then translated to a regional level by the counties. At a practical level each ‘kommune’ has a say in helping to decide predator control and hunting quotas.
All counties have to submit their culling and hunting plans to the Norwegian Directorate for Nature Management. The Directorate reserves the right to change the plans if necessary. This produces a much more ‘bottom up approach’, giving communities a say in how their wildlife and forests are managed and also a stake in the natural resource. However the plans are largely based on agreeing numbers to hunt rather than having to control numbers.
As Norway is not part of the European Union it is not subject to the same Natura Legislation which governs much of the way we manage wildlife and land in Scotland. One example of this is the quotas for hunting Lynx. In Norway there is a population of 600-800 lynx and some hunting is sanctioned. However in neighbouring Sweden, which is part of the EU, hunting of lynx is not allowed until the population reaches 1,500. This indicates a different approach to what constitutes viable populations and risk management. This is understandable, given the greater movement of wildlife across a larger land area into and from Norway, compared with Scotland as part of a relatively small island.
Ten per cent of the population hunt in Norway and there is a high acceptance of hunting amongst the rest. The number of people hunting varies between species. Older people tend to hunt moose as they are more expensive than other game. People pay for the right to hunt and pay an additional cost for the meat. Much of the hunting is about getting the meat. People need a licence to hunt large game, but not for small. Landowners can charge what they want whereas the cost on state owned forests is set.
Hunting quotas are an important aspect of the Norwegian approach to wildlife management. Permits are sold setting out the number of animals to be hunted. If this quota is not met within a specific timeframe a new permit is issued to someone else. There is very much a connection with and culture of hunting in Norway which is largely absent in Scotland.
One of the principal and coveted forms of hunting is moose. Moose management is organised into areas called VALDs. These areas are divided into hunting units. People can buy the right to hunt within a specific unit. They are then given a quota which is part of a plan put together by all the landowners. Information is fed back into a central database on wildlife seen and wildlife shot. Supplying this information is mandatory. All this information sits in a register which is open to anyone who wants to view it. This open and transparent approach to data on wildlife underpins the collective and community approach to and attitude to wildlife as a collective and local resource.
Wildlife Management Issues
Issues can arise where one or more hunting areas/units is/are subject to more damage than surrounding areas. This can be seen where moose wintering grounds fall into one landowner’s area and he/she has to bear the brunt of the damage. Some of those whose land is not damaged by moose in the winter are not willing to agree to numbers being reduced. Thus as with mechanisms for managing deer in Scotland, problems can arise when there are different land management objectives and there is no consensus on overall objectives. Looking ahead it will be interesting to see the impact of increasing wildlife populations e.g. moose, on Norway’s approaches to management.
What can Scotland learn from Norway?
Scotland can learn much from Norway and vice versa but we need to be mindful of the different factors which have shaped how and why we manage land and wildlife. We need to ensure we don’t impose objectives or approaches which aren’t compatible with our climate/ geography/ habitats/ culture.
Land and wildlife management structures in Norway are rooted in the right for everyone to hunt. In Scotland we tend to compartmentalise our approaches, categorising land and wildlife as something to protect, control or use. In Norway approaches to wildlife are more fluid e.g. hunting of protected species, like wolf, is permitted (in some areas). We can learn from the Norwegians and view wildlife as part of a dynamic process. This will help our approaches and management to be more responsive to changes in the future.
5. DEER MANAGEMENT IN HEDMARK, NORWAY
Fraser Robertson (Wildlife Ranger, FCS, Argyll Forest District)
There are four main deer species found in Norway – red deer (Cervus elaphus atlanticus), roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), elk/moose (Alces alces) and the reindeer (Rangifer tarandus). Beside these, there are small populations of escaped fallow deer, and a small population of musk ox established early last century.
Red deer populations are increasing their range, but population-monitoring studies reveal that few populations are larger than their grazing resources can support. The population range from ‘dense’ in Western Norway and in Trøndelag to ‘expanding’ in the municipalities of Southern and Eastern Norway where higher numbers are increasingly causing damage to farm crops and fruit orchards.
The roe deer is the smallest of the deer species in Norway. Their main habitat is mixed agricultural / forest areas in the south of the country. The roe deer is not very well adapted to the cold winters and deep snow where their passage is easily hindered making them easy targets for predators, especially lynx. Compared to the other big herbivores, they are not efficient in digging forage out of the snow. This means that their numbers vary more widely than those of the other species of deer.
Elk / Moose
The largest of the herbivores, the Elk referred to as the ‘king of the forest’ is well adapted for the Scandanavian woodland / forest habitat. In the summer rising temperatures (heat stress) drive the elk to higher ground to keep cool where they feed on grass, herbs and leaves. In these circumstances, they do not pose any problem for the lowland farmers and their crops. In the winter however, when they move down to lower altitudes, their diet will change and consist of small boughs, bark and new plants, causing considerable damage to young plantations of pines in particular. During the winter months, an adult moose will eat around 40-50kg of pine/spruce each day.
Norway manages the last viable populations of the wild European reindeer. Roads, railroads and hydropower reservoirs in combination with other human activities have split up their range, leaving a fragmented habitat for this species. Most fragments are small, compared to the area requirements of reindeer populations, and the balance between summer and winter grazing areas in most of the fragments is poor. In several areas, it has been necessary to cull the population heavily to prevent overgrazing and food shortages.
All reindeer herding activity in Norway is regulated by the “Norwegian Reindeer Herding Act”. This legislation provides an almost exclusive right for the Saami – and Saami of reindeer herding families – to practise reindeer husbandry.
Deer Management in Norway
The number of animals which can be hunted of any species (including red deer, elk/moose, roe deer, and reindeer), is regulated at both local and at national level. At a local level the municipalities (townships) are given responsibility for the administrative and economic instruments necessary to control deer numbers. This involves the formation of ‘game committees’, usually from local landowners and hunters. These committees define ‘hunting areas’ and set ‘hunting quotas’ for each area. Hunting areas may represent a single landowner or a group of smaller landowners established through mutual consent. Hunting quotas for each species are then set within each hunting area, e.g. ‘4 male and 4 female Moose, 3 male and 2 female Red deer.
These quotas are then reported to the Directorate for Nature Management, a government body, which has the right to either reduce quotas if it believes they are too high, or impose a cull if they are too low.
Deer Management in the Hedmark District
The vegetation in the Hedmark District is dominated by pure or mixed stands of Scots pine Pinus sylvestris and Norway spruce Picea abies. Interspersed are small amounts of boreal deciduous species such as birch Betula pubescens, willow Salix spp., mountain ash Sorbus aucuparia and aspen Populus tremula.
The Red Deer and Roe deer are both present in the Hedmark area (120 Km north of Oslo) but in relatively small numbers and correspondingly do not cause significant damage to either Farm or Forestry intrests. The extreme cold (-35c), extensive winter snow coverage (up to 2 metres deep), and predation from the Lynx, Wolf and European Brown Bear combine to keep deer population levels low.
The Elk is however well designed to cope with the harsh climatic conditions and can move effortlessly within the forest, often migrating considerable distances to lower altitudes before the winter snows arrive. Migration routes and winter ranges seem to be bound by tradition, as calves follow their mothers to their winter ranges, and in subsequent years establish their own winter ranges close to the maternal range.
Hunting regulations and changes in forestry practices have encouraged a strong population increase, with a density of around 1.5 Elk per square km in the Hedmark district. Hedmark is the largest "moose county" in terms of the number of licences and animals shot. In 2011/2012 a total of 9,200 hunting licences were issued and 7,111 animals were shot, resulting in a harvest percentage of 77%. (Source: Statistics Norway).
Moose/Elk hunting, 2012/2013, preliminary figures
Published: 21 March 2013
Source : Statistics Norway 2013
In addition to organised hunting, rail / road collisions will account for a significant number Elk deaths in the Hedmark region, with approximately 1 in 30 trains involved in collisions with deer. In the 2011/2012 hunting year, a total of 5,000 Elk and Roe deer were killed by traffic. This is nearly 1,300 fewer than in the previous year and the lowest number since the hunting year 2000/2001.
Source : Statistics Norway 2013
Supplementary feeding station
Landowners in eastern Norway have supplied moose/elk with ensilaged bales of hay in attempts to limit migratory pathways and control movement away from the roads and railways to prevent such collisions / accidents. This however causes other problems by concentrating more Elk and Red Deer in smaller areas leading to extensive habitat damage in the younger forest plantations within 1km radius of these sites. The feeding period covered 5-6 months. Snow accumulation in the hillsides, usually in December, indicated the starting time of the feeding period, and the snow melt or the summer migration in April-May set the end point.
Feeding stations were located in forest areas at the bottom, along hillsides, or at the outlets of the side valleys used by moose during migration. All stations were placed near relatively snow free roads with low human activity, so that vehicular access was easy. The results of studies suggest that feeding stations that have been used for several years may help to reduce damage on young forest plantations up to 5 km from the feeding station, at the expense of heavy destruction of forest in the close vicinity to feeding stations.
6. A comparison of the Hunting Cultures in Norway and Scotland
Russell Cooper (Wildlife Ranger Manager FCS Inverness Forest District)
Hunting in Norway refers to the shooting of elk (moose), deer, grouse and also to the trapping of animals for their skins. In Scotland hunting is often thought of as fox hunting; deer hunting is stalking; grouse hunting is shooting and trapping of animals is vermin control. For this comparison the term hunting covers all types of shooting and trapping.
Man originally hunted in similar ways in both Norway and Scotland and for the same reasons, meat and animal skins.
Pre firearms the methods used were similar. In Norway there was extensive use of constructed pits that would be covered with vegetation and deer fell into them (also when baited were used for wolves). In Scotland stone walls were built and deer driven into a closed end before being speared.
There was no large scale deforestation in Norway as on the Scottish scale when man moved from hunting/gathering to agriculture. Because of the extensive forests reducing the deer population to very low levels or even locally exterminating them was not possible or indeed desirable. Man still used them as an important food source. Trapping was also used to catch many species in Norway and this was part of hunting for food and skins.
People often collectively hunted then as now which would have been more productive due to the large forests, also dividing up the meat made sense especially if it was an elk or if there was the opportunity to kill several.
Hunting cabins were widespread and used for other activities other than hunting such as forestry or looking after livestock thus allowing distant areas to be worked. Now with the ease of travel, hunters can go to where they enjoy the place or type of hunting most, however hunting cabins are still used which may be more of a link to the past and for enjoyment rather than a necessity.
Meat hunting can no longer be seen as essential but combined with the sport is a good reason to invest time and money in it.
The situation today is that if you want to hunt in Norway you apply for a licence and when you have the permission of the landowner you can then go after your quota of game. Hunting can be with others or alone, you decide.
Getting a licence is not guaranteed as there may be many hunters after the same areas but if you pick a less popular area you will be more likely to be successful. Quotas are decided locally and again the process is managed locally.
How man used the natural resources started to change with the increase in agriculture. Man cleared forests for agriculture and this made it easier to locate bears and wolves which were eventually exterminated. It is said that part of the reason for burning the forests was because of wolves living there. Deer would still have been used for meat but now they were seen as a competitor with livestock and also the crops which man now planted. Because of this deer numbers would have been reduced down to an all time low.
The situation changed in Victorian times when the hunting of deer (and game birds) became fashionable. Landowners now provided deer with enough protection to let the numbers rise and killed anything that preyed on game birds. This led to the extension of many bird of prey species and took others and some mammals to the brink of extinction. Often the people who lived in an area had no opportunity to hunt for meat or sport and the penalties for poaching could be severe.
Deer and game when hunted for sport were eaten but not to any extent was this large part of the diet of the people who lived in the area. Much was sent by train to the large cities but was consumed by only a small proportion of the population. Venison and game developed a reputation as being the food of the rich people.
The market for venison and game in Scotland has grown greatly in the past decade and in the case of venison demand now outstrips availability. Deer farming is becoming more viable in Scotland and imports from New Zealand are increasing.
In Scotland large areas of the highlands are still managed for deer or grouse hunting and the hunter is accompanied and guided by the stalker or keeper. Hunting in this way is by the day or week and payment may be by the number of deer or birds shot. The meat if you want it may be an additional charge and few take this opportunity
Due to high deer densities (compared to much of Norway) a large part of the deer cull is carried out as a necessity not sport, the aim being to reduce damage to forestry and agriculture.
Approximately 10% of the Norwegian population hunt which is far greater than in the UK where less than 1% hunt. Of perhaps more interest is that 90% of the general public in Norway are supportive of hunting, whereas this is not the case in Scotland and the recent banning of hunting with dogs demonstrates the difference.
In Norway the acceptance and indeed celebration of hunting both in the past and now is clearly demonstrated in the Forestry and Hunting museum at Elverum. The museum has a national responsibility for presenting the history of Forestry and Hunting and gets 100,000 visitors a year. It is a modern building with good displays and graphic demonstrations of traps and photos of trapped animals. A similar museum would not have the same public support or interest in Scotland
A good example of how the two cultures differ in their view of hunting was observed at a roadside house which had a selection of elk antlers on the wall. Displaying antlers was not unusual in Norway or indeed in the highlands of Scotland however what made this stand out was the bear and wolf skulls with bullet holes. In Norway it was a link to the past and showed what a very successful hunter had achieved and where he lived. I suspect that a similar display in Scotland may be met with hostility.
In Norway it appears that you can be proud to enjoy hunting animals and feel you have the backing of the public. The question of why hunt would be more likely answered why not?
In Scotland people often feel the need to justify hunting as a method of controlling animal numbers or that hunting provides employment rather than simply they and others hunt for enjoyment.
Norway has an unbroken tradition of the people hunting out of the necessity for food and also now for sport. You apply for a licence and have the same opportunity of hunting as others.
Hunting is popular and has the backing of most of the non hunting public.
In Scotland the decisions on hunting largely rest with the landowner who decides who can hunt and what can be hunted (within the law).
Hunting for sport doesn’t have a large support from the non hunting public.
7. Herbivore Impacts: Norway and Scotland
Paul Thompson (Ranger, NTS, Ben Lawyers)
The impacts of large herbivores on habitats present similar challenges for land mangers both in Scotland and Norway and our visit gave plenty of opportunity for comparing the two. The areas we visited gave the impression of experiencing generally lower levels of grazing/browsing damage than un-fenced areas in Scotland.
There could be many reasons for this but it seems likely that human population pressure, habitat destruction, farming and forestry methods and hunting practices all play a role.
However we did visit one area in particular that was experiencing unacceptable levels of browsing damage. The forests around the village of Løten have been managed for timber production for centuries, but the scots pine saplings in the regenerating clear-fell zones are being damaged by a large winter population of moose.
A moose can browse foliage to a height of approximately three metres off the ground. On a tall, mature tree this has limited effect on the tree’s form and ultimate size, two factors of key importance for timber production. However on saplings, heavy browsing, and particularly lead stem browsing, can severely restrict the tree’s growth and shape. In this case, as shown in the above picture, the browsing damage is so severe that most of the young scots pine trees are either dead or dying. The less palatable and unfortunately less economically valuable Norway spruce trees are all that is left. Clearly, this stand will never produce a commercially viable timber crop unless the browsing is brought under control.
There are two main reasons why the moose have had such an impact on this plot. Firstly, Norwegian forestry methods have changed in the last sixty or so years. In pre-war times, timber was harvested selectively with individual trees taken over a wide area cheap levitra. The gaps in the canopy this created led to regeneration areas that were scattered over a wide area. The modern practice however is to clear-fell whole areas. This has had the effect that all the young trees are concentrated in a single area. All the new growth at easy browsing height has proved to be an irresistible lure to the moose who congregate in numbers to eat each and every tree. An interesting side-note is that it is normal practice, at least in eastern, Norway to leave fifty or so mature trees per hectare of clear-fell to provide a source of seed to re-colonise the area. Something that is rarely able to be done in Scotland because of the likelihood of wind-blow. The second, and perhaps more fundamental, reason for the severity of the damage in this area is simply the increase in the population of the moose, not just in the Hedmark region but nationwide.
Hunting is egalitarian and well regulated in Norway. Their methods of licensing and cull returns produce a wealth of data each year from which to assess the moose population. Hunter observation, snow-track and pellet-group counts and the cull figures all build an accurate picture of the population. The most commonly used (and perhaps most reliable) data used is the cull record.
This graph shows the increase in number of moose shot per year in Norway over the last century. These figures show an approximate twenty-fold increase in the number of moose shot annually over the last hundred years. The concurrent population explosion this indicates goes a long way to explaining the level of damage they are seeing in Løten.
As we saw, the moose are changing the structure of the forest to favour the Norway spruce that they seldom eat. This will, of course, have knock on effects for the diversity of life that can exist in the forest as the scots pine element is removed. Future generations will feel the economic effects too.
Forest products amounted to 6Bn NOK for the year 2011 (Source: Statistics Norway). Hunting accounts for just 4% of the commercial value of forestry in Norway (see pie chart). So, although the value of hunting has increased over the years due to the availability of moose, it is important economically that this must not be at the expense of the timber production that accounts for a far greater share of Norway’s wealth, a point made clear to us by Johan, the local forest manager.
It is his job to try to balance the competing demands on the land for the good of the local community. The challenges he faces are very reminiscent of those faced in Scotland. In particular, we discussed his plans, in cooperation with Ole of Evenstad campus, to experiment with new ways to protect the regenerating scots pine on which the local economy depends. They outlined the possibility of using temporary fencing to exclude moose from small areas (less than 1Ha) for a short period of time: just long enough for the lead stems of trees to be out of reach of browsing moose. Fencing is not as accepted in Norway as it is in Scotland. Indeed the lack of large deer fences was refreshing to see, both from a landscape and habitat point of view.
Understandably it must be difficult to convince the local populace of the need for a reduction cull of moose. The moose hunt brings money in every year whereas, due to the slow growth rates of trees, any one specific plot of trees will only be harvested by one in every four generations. However, Johan and Ole are aware of the need to reduce the moose population and hope to achieve this by a gradual reduction so as not to cause undue disruption to the moose hunt.
We were struck by how the management issues of this site in particular had parallels with those we all face in our jobs in Scotland especially how to manage the population of a large herbivore (moose in Norway, red deer in Scotland) to suit the needs of all stakeholders.
Perhaps due to a lower human population density or Norway’s position as part of the vast Taiga forest stretching across Europe and Asia, the land has not been exploited so intensely as in Scotland. However, changing forest practices and cultural attitudes are creating, in some areas very similar problems. Unfenced, Norway’s forests provide the largest possible habitat for the moose and hence, for any given population, the lowest population density. The widespread use of fences in Scotland has produced a landscape segregated between areas where red deer are allowed and where they aren’t.
By comparing the different strategies used to manage their most ubiquitous deer species, each country provides to the other an illustration of the possible outcome of their efforts.
8 Reintroduction of carnivores to Scotland: What can we learn from the Norwegian experience?
Lindsay Mackinlay, NTS Nature Conservation Adviser
Scotland has been without its top predators for a significant amount of time, with the last wolf purported to have been killed almost 270 years ago, bears said to have disappeared almost 1000 years ago, and the last lynx potentially seen around the time of the Romans. Scottish ecosystems only now have smaller predators, such as fox, wildcat and pine marten, present, all of which do not have any significant impacts on large herbivore populations. Many view the return of top predators to Scotland as essential if we are to restore more balance to the natural environment and reduce the need for humans to act as large scale gardeners in our landscape.
Bear Hibernation Lair; Evenstad
In Norway, the situation is different in that lynx, wolves, bears and wolverines are all present in their natural environment, albeit at often very low densities (due to hunting) or in zones where they have some protection from hunting. Wolf numbers in Norway are low, largely restricted to a zone in SE Norway (adjacent to Sweden which has many more wolves), and are approximately 25 in number, with only a handful of bears. It was unclear how many lynx were present in Norway but their numbers are believed to be in the hundreds.
It was therefore very interesting to observe the Norwegian approach to their top predators and consider whether these species could be re-introduced to Scotland with the key aim of returning Scotland´s natural environment to a more balanced state.
Firstly, Norway is not an untouched wilderness, free of the hand of man. Norway has a strong culture of hunting, and in the area of Evenstad and its environs, a long history of forestry management. Top predators exist in a landscape which is primarily large managed forest with many farms nearby, sometimes with sheep, and also holiday cabins. In that sense, it does share some similarities with Scotland where much of the land is either forestry or sheep farming, and where visitors to the countryside form a key part of the economy. In both countries, top predators have a high probability of coming into contact with man; slightly more so in Scotland where human population densities are slightly higher.
In addition, Norwegian top predators live off moose, red deer, roe deer, reindeer and game bird populations respectively. These herbivores and birds are all extensively hunted in the areas where predators live and have an economic and cultural value to local people. Norway therefore shares much with Scotland, in that large herbivore and game bird populations are also regularly hunted and also form a key part of the rural culture.
So, on the basis that Norway and Scotland share relatively similar backgrounds in terms of land-use and herbivore populations (albeit Scotland does not have moose or much in the way of reindeer and less forest cover), what is to stop Scotland re-introducing wolves, bears and lynx. Wolverines are not included here as they have not been present in the UK for approx. 12000 years.
Wolverine: A species that has not been seen in Scotland for approximately 12000 years.
During our Norwegian trip, we spoke to many people who work on the land, including foresters, hunters and academics. We did not speak to the general public (aka ‘city folk’).
There was a general feeling that wolves and bear are, at best, tolerated within certain designated areas. However, should they leave these areas, they can be expected to be shot as they are seen as threats, for example, due to predation on hunting and pet dogs by wolves (it was unclear what significant threat bears posed to the area). Underlying this, there was a feeling that there was a traditional ´fear´ and distrust of these predators that probably comes from our primeval roots! There was little apparent enthusiasm amongst land managers for wolves and bear to be permitted to be widespread across Norway due to the likely conflicts and also, I believe, because of man´s inherent concern about their presence. It is worth noting that many people have not lived alongside wolves and bears in Norway so their sudden presence in many areas would be a new experience for many people and not viewed as a return to the status quo. It was felt that this attitude would be similar in Scotland and that there would be much concern to the re-introduction of wolves within rural communities. With regard to bears, it was felt that the Scottish habitats may not be capable of supporting bears at this time and this species is certainly not seriously mentioned when there is talk of re-introductions in Scotland.
With regard to lynx, the opposite was the case, in that many land managers who were resistant to more bears and wolves, were very relaxed about the lynx, and they did not see this species as a particular threat, even to sheep. Lynx will predominantly prey on roe deer and game birds, as well as fox (often seen as a pest in both countries). They do occasionally prey on sheep in some countries but there was little detection in Norway that this was a significant problem. Therefore, it was felt that the case for reintroducing lynx to Scotland was a strong one, that the potential conflicts would be minimal, and that this species could actually help control populations of roe deer, increasingly a problem for forestry and woodland regeneration in many areas of Scotland, and fox.
Therefore, the visit to Norway was extremely useful, in that it removed the idea that Norwegians happily live alongside wolves and bear. Overall, those who live close to them are not frequently comfortable with their presence and will hunt them when they leave their designated areas. However, the visit did lend support for the case for the re-introduction of the lynx, as this species was not generally seen as a problem. It is therefore considered that Scottish conservationists should concentrate their efforts on the return of lynx rather than other top predators.
I would like to express my ‘big thanks’ to Marius, Florres and all those who kindly gave their time during our trip to explain the conservation issues in Norway. It was a fantastic experience and an extremely helpful visit.