The Norwegian wolf, which has inhabited Norway and Sweden for almost 12,000 years, is no longer alive. According to the Norwegian Environment Agency, the indigenous Scandinavian wolf segment perished during the 1960s.

Today’s modern wolf population in Norway and Sweden are the descendants of a limited variety of animals from the Finnish-Russian species, which scattered as far as southern Scandinavia in the 1980s and 1990s.

Hence, the Norwegian wolf is undoubtedly extinct. 

Key Features

Eurasian Wolf
Eurasian Wolf | Image Credit – Wikimedia

The largest wild species of the canine family is the Norwegian wolf, also known as the gray wolf.

Physical attributes

The most prominent wild members of the canine family are about 4.5 to 6 feet (1.4 – 1.8 m) in length and sport a scruffy gray pelt with a deeper shoulder plume. The gray wolf’s excellent senses, huge canine fangs, muscular jaws, and propensity to chase prey at 60 km/h (37 mph) make it ideal for a voracious lifestyle. 

The luxuriant half-meter-long tail of a typical northern male is roughly 2 meters long. It stands 76 cm high at the shoulders and weighs approximately 45 kg (100 pounds). However, weight may vary from 14 to 65 kg, depending on location. On the other hand, females are 20% lighter and smaller than males in general.

Habitat

Wolves do not have any precise habitat demands. However, they prefer minimal human interference and an excellent mammalian prey source.

Pack behavior

Clusters of roughly two dozen Norwegian wolves are widespread, with 6 to 10 being the most general groupings. A pack is essentially a social organization composed of a mature breeding pair, known as the alpha male and alpha female, and their children of various age groups. 

The wolf pack is made feasible by wolves’ propensity to create profound social connections among each other. Inside the group, a dominance pyramid is developed, which aids in the maintenance of law and order.

Communication

A pack’s domain can range from 80 to 3,000 square kilometers based on feeding availability, and it is fiercely contested against other gangs. Optical communication (facial expression, body postures, tail placement), noises, and odor markers are used by wolves to interact with each other.

Breeding 

Mating occurs during February and April, and a brood of five or six youngsters is birthed in the springtime after a two-month pregnancy. All elders of the herd look after the newborns. They are served rehashed meat after weaning from their mother’s breast milk at six to nine weeks.

Predators and prey

Norwegian wolves are pretty active and feed at nighttime, particularly in human-populated regions and during warm temperatures. The principal target is grazing animals, including deer, elk, moose, buffalo, sheep, caribou, and wild boar. These predators hunt, catch and drag the prey to the pack.

Apart from humans, Norwegian wolves have few potential foes. Although most succumb far sooner, they can survive as long as 13 years in the wilderness. The significant causes leading to death in regions with high wolf concentration and diminishing prey abundance are wolf slaughter and malnutrition.

History of Norwegian Wolf

Wolves are widespread all over North America and Eurasia, and there are over 30 different subspecies. While their world population is presently steady, many communities, particularly in the United States, were brought to the edge of eradication in the twentieth century. 

Wolves first appeared in Norway and Sweden near the end of the previous glacial period, when glaciers receded, revealing the ground below. For almost 12,000 years, the Norwegian wolf is said to have roamed Norway and Sweden.

On the other hand, humans have not always been compassionate towards these wolves. They have been slaughtered indiscriminately, and their home has been lost due to unorganized farming and other urban planning. By 1970, their population had vanished.

Why were Norwegian wolves hunted?

Norwegian wolves hunted
Norwegian wolves hunted | Image Credit – The Guardian

Norwegian wolves were brutally butchered for sports, fur, cattle protection, and human defense in certain exceptional instances. The menace presented to cattle and humans by wolves was deemed substantial enough to force entire neighborhoods into recruitment under penalty pain. 

Humans rarely killed wolves for food, but in the past, humanity has consumed wolf meat during times of famine or for medical purposes. Throughout Vilhjalmur Stefansson’s 1913 Arctic trip, the flesh was consumed multiple times, notably when the wolves were plump during the midsummer. 

Communities also slaughter them for their warm pelt. Wolf furs were also valuable as apparel, export proceeds, and ruffs or jackets. They have also been donned by some healers or witch doctors in ceremonial performances.

People commonly used ointments with Norwegian wolf fat to ward off harmful souls. When administered as granules, people would use the wolf ointment to treat epilepsy, epidemic, and arthritis. Fractures stretched tendons, and chest and shoulders ailments were all treated with crushed wolf bones.

The canines of wolves’ teeth were pierced and used as charms against demonic spirits. As evidenced by several wolf tooth pendants found in ancient tomb grounds, this tradition will likely date back to the Pleistocene.

Cooking the tongue with flour and honey was once thought to be a cure for epilepsy and a sign of favorable fortune. The eyeballs of the wolf were considered to give youngsters bravery. The liver was treasured for its therapeutic and ceremonial properties.

The re-emergence: A fact or myth?

Wolves reemerged in the vicinity about a decade later, and more than 400 wolves reside in the Norwegian-Swedish border area nowadays. Previously, the origins of this group were unknown to the investigators. There were allegations that these wolves were freed from captivity into the outdoors at one point. 

In the 1980s, speculations circulated that domesticated Swedish-Norwegian wolves were being released into the forests and that the population was making a resurgence. This release seemed reasonable given the number of wolves discovered near the Swedish-Norwegian boundary.

After studying the genetic structure of around 1,300 wolf specimens, the team found that these wolves that roam around Norway and Sweden today originated in Finland. And there are no genetic traces from the previous Norwegian wolves in this community.

Since inbreeding renders creatures more vulnerable to illness and hereditary disorders, the substitute wolves may succumb to the same fate as their Norwegian-Swedish ancestors.

In 1970, humans killed Norway’s native wolf population in their natural habitat. Beyond Norway, one can still discover some genuine Norwegian-Swedish wolves in captivity. Our modern wolves are not closely connected to the original versions.

Genetic Differences and Inbreeding

Surprisingly, the new wolves in Norway and Sweden, which are thought to have descended from Finnish wolves, are biologically and genetically different from those in Finland. However, this does not imply that the Norwegian-Swedish wolves represent a separate species.

Inbreeding and the limited availability of the two wolf species are blamed for the genetic variations. Because wolves are descended from such a small number of animals, congenital abnormalities are more easily transmitted down through generations.

This status implies the wolf may be extinct in Norway once more. And this time is mainly due to inbreeding rather than killing and habitat degradation.

Is the Norwegian-Swedish Wolf Gone Forever?

Extinction diaries Norwegian Wolf 
Norwegian Wolf | Image Credit – Pexels

There are still a few wolves from the indigenous Norway/Sweden species in conservation areas. Authorities could potentially reintroduce these species into the existing population to improve genetic diversity. 

Some biologists believe captive wolves could aid their wild equivalents by bolstering their genetic makeup. This prisoning could reduce inbreeding and allow some primordial genetic information to be reintroduced into the existing population. 

Considering the years-long dispute that erupted when news circulated – that state had unleashed wolves from cages into the wilderness, one can only picture the pandemonium that would result if this were to transpire.

Technically speaking, one can still spot the actual Norwegian-Swedish wolves under the state’s protection. And, they would be able to transfer their DNA to today’s modern wild wolves in Norway and Sweden. But, this is just a theory that might or might not turn into a reality. 

On the other hand, the true Norwegian-Swedish wolf is almost certainly extinct in its natural habitat.

Did the state of Norway intentionally kill the Norwegian wolf?

The short answer is no; the state did not kill any Norwegian wolves. However, the state does control some of the other wolf populations by systematically killing them. 

Only 68 Eurasian wolves live in Norway, a small figure that the government has declared the subspecies severely threatened. The government has just approved a slaughter that could kill as many as 47 wolves. But why is that?

Countless internet petitions have been circulated calling for the massacre to be reconsidered, and over 3,000 people protested on the grounds of Norway’s parliament. However, the question still stands: why purposely butcher two-thirds of a threatened wildlife species?

The explanation is that Norwegian authorities believe the country, which is slightly bigger than Montana, can only accommodate 21 wolves, despite the lack of scientific evidence. In addition, the Scandinavian country suspects wolves of assaulting an excessive number of sheep, and again there is no verification to reinforce the affirmations.

To Conclude

As a result of slaughter and overexploitation, the transformation of marshes and woods to farmland and metropolitan centers, pollution, invasion of exotic species, and perhaps other instances of human-induced damage to their ecological systems, many species are on the brink of extinction.

Furthermore, contemporary human-caused extinction frequencies are predicted to be 1,000 times higher than natural extinction rates, prompting some experts to coin the term “sixth mass extinction.”

Human atrocities have pushed numerous species towards extinction and disappearance. And Norwegian wolf is just one such example. 

The disappearance of the Norwegian wolf serves as a cautionary tale. And, inbreeding now poses a threat to the ones that prevail. It is also possible that this new population of look-alike Norwegian wolves will vanish once more.

Shradha Bhatta holds a Bachelors’s Degree in Social Work along with a Post-graduate degree in Project Management from Georgian College in Canada. Shradha enjoys writing on a variety of topics and takes pleasure in discovering new ideas. She likes traveling and spending time with nature. She is a very people-person who loves talking about climate change and alerting people to go green!