Protected species: Norway wolf cull will hit genetic diversity

Norway's regional management authorities have approved plans to cull up to 70% of its grey wolves (Canis lupus). Because the current population consists of just 65–68 individuals, of which only 21 are thought to be sexually mature (see, this cull and the subsequent loss of genetic material would seem to be a significant misstep for ensuring the wolf's persistence in Norway.

Preserving genetic variation is crucial for the long-term survival of populations in fragmented landscapes. The genetic diversity of these wolves is already low because the entire population is descended from just a few individuals (C. Vilà et al. Proc. Biol. Sci. 270, 91–97; 2003). Their small population size and founding history mean that they need genetic input from immigrant wolves from Sweden, Finland and Russia to survive. Otherwise, they face the same fate as the well-studied Isle Royale wolf population in the United States (see Nature 520, 415; 2015).

Livestock protection is the Norwegian government's main justification for the cull, although less than 9% of Norway's sheep are taken by wolves (data from The government is ignoring well-established scientific practices for managing a critically threatened species, as well as overriding its commitment to the Bern Convention, which lists the wolf as a strictly protected species.

Author information


  1. Uppsala University, Sweden.

    • Elina Immonen
  2. University of Helsinki, Finland.

    • Arild Husby


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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Arild Husby.


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