Climate change and terrestrial wildlife management in the Fennoscandian North

May 7, 2012, 12:38 pm

This is Section 11.3.3 of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment Lead Author: David R. Klein; Contributing Authors: Leonid M. Baskin, Lyudmila S. Bogoslovskaya, Kjell Danell, Anne Gunn, David B. Irons, Gary P. Kofinas, Kit M. Kovacs, Margarita Magomedova, Rosa H. Meehan, Don E. Russell, Patrick Valkenburg

Management and conservation of wildlife under change (

In the boreal forest and mountainous areas of northern Fennoscandia the major hunted wildlife species are moose, grouse, dabbling ducks and some diving ducks, and bean geese (Anser fabalis). There is increased interest, largely among urban dwellers, to conserve large carnivores. These predatory species are now recovering from high hunting pressures during past decades by farmers and reindeer herders in defense of their livestock. Nevertheless, there have been centuries-long habitat changes in the Fennoscandian Arctic brought about by human activities, including community development and expansion, road and other transportation corridor construction, hydropower development, mining, tourism development, forest clearing, and establishment of military training or test sites (Fig. 11.5). This has resulted in substantial reduction of available habitat for wildlife as well as fragmentation of existing habitats. The consequences for wildlife have been limitations on the freedom of seasonal movements of wildlife, as well as restricted dispersal, and associated genetic exchange, fragmentation of wildlife populations, and lowered overall productivity of the land and waters of northern Fennoscandia for wildlife.


caption Fig. 11.5. Natural habitat fragmentation in northern Norway is exemplified by the decrease in wilderness areas in Norway north of the CAFF boundary since 1900. Wilderness is defined as an area lying more than five kilometers from roads, railways, and regulated water-courses. (Source: Norwegian Mapping Authority as quoted in [1])


In Norway and Sweden, wolves were completely exterminated during the mid-20th century. Animals from Finland/Russia have recently recolonized the southern, forested part of the peninsula. Bears (Ursus arctos) were exterminated in Norway, except for a small population on the border with Russia and Finland. Recovery of bears by dispersing animals from Sweden has occurred in some border areas farther to the south. Decisions have been made that determine areas in which these predators will be tolerated and areas where they will be excluded, largely on the basis of the presence of freely ranging domestic livestock and Saami reindeer. In the exclusion zones in Norway, targeted hunts are held to kill individual large carnivores or groups of them regardless of the status of the species. No wolves have been permitted to reestablish in the Saami reindeer herding areas, which lie north of approximately 63° N.

The climate record and outputs from climate models (Chapter 2 and 4]]) indicate little change in temperature patterns in northern Fennoscandia in recent decades, in contrast to other parts of the Arctic. Similarly, models projecting future climate trends in the Arctic suggest slow rates of warming in Fennoscandia. An exception is the north coastal region of Norway where models project substantial increases in winter temperature and precipitation. The effects of global warming in the region include ablation of mountain glaciers, altitudinal advances in the treeline, increases in magnitude of defoliating insect outbreaks, and, possibly, a decline in the frequency and magnitude of small mammal population cycles (see Chapter 7). Thus far, there has been little serious research effort focused directly on how changing temperature and precipitation will influence wildlife populations in Fennoscandia.

Hunting systems (

In general, the moose hunt is based on licenses issued by the regional governments to hunting teams. Each license allocates the number of moose to be harvested from the specific land area for which the license is issued, whether it is private or government owned land. The hunting quota is based on population estimates derived from hunter observations and aerial surveys, including assessment of sex and age composition, but consideration is given to the number of traffic accidents and damage done by moose to forest stands. The timing and length of moose hunting seasons vary within and between countries.

Large carnivore populations are estimated through observations incidental to surveys of other wildlife, local or regional field studies of carnivore species and their prey relationships, and other techniques. Hunting quotas and conservation measures are based on population estimates, reproductive rates, and levels of predation on reindeer, sheep, and other domestic animals.

The hunting system for ptarmigan and grouse rests primarily on setting of the hunting season dates, which traditionally fall between late August and mid-February. In some areas there is a bag limit, often based on local monitoring programs. Grouse hunting in mountain areas is currently undergoing discussion and the different hunting systems are under evaluation from both the biological and hunters’ perspectives.

Wildlife management for hunter harvest of ducks is based primarily on setting the start and duration of the hunting season within the period from late August through late November. Some areas are closed to hunting, including areas around villages.

Monitoring systems (

In the Fennoscandian countries there is a strong tradition for hunters to report the number of animals killed, and hunters voluntarily assist in wildlife surveys. This is a valuable aid to wildlife management in Finland, Sweden, and Norway and efforts continue to improve the hunter reporting system to ensure greater reliability of the information obtained. Systems for monitoring the population status of moose and large carnivores are among the most highly developed, whereas the least developed system is for ducks, with systems for monitoring ptarmigan and grouse populations intermediate. There is a concern in some areas of the Arctic that these hunter-based systems will be less effective because many young hunters who were born and raised in the rural areas of the North, and having familiarity with the specific wildlife habitats and wildlife of their region, are moving to urban areas to seek employment. Consequently, the number of hunters living close to the land in the Fennoscandian Arctic is decreasing while those from urban centers outside the region are increasing.

Flexibility of hunting systems under climate change (

With increasing temperatures, in concert with other long-term changes, such as wetland eutrophication, populations of some waterfowl species, for example whistling swans (Cygnus columbianus), eider ducks (Somateria spp.), and greylag geese (Anser anser), are expected to increase in size and to expand their distribution. Consequently, there will be demand for hunting opportunities on these species in areas where today there is no hunting. The procedure for establishing hunting regulations under the present system should be adaptable to allow changes in hunter harvest levels to ensure optimal sustainable harvest through hunting of these waterfowl species. Restrictions on hunting have also allowed recovery of species such as common eider (Somateria mollissima) and barnacle goose (Branta leucopsis) that nest in the high Arctic, to the point where it may be justified to reconsider opening hunting seasons on them.

Adjustments in moose hunting in response to moose population changes can be achieved through flexibility in establishment of hunting quotas. However, some difficulties can be foreseen. For example, if temperatures during the early part of the hunting season are high there may be difficulties preserving the meat in the field without access to cold storage rooms. This may limit hunting to periods of suitable weather before snow accumulation. This might make it difficult for small hunting teams to fill their quotas. If snow arrives early in the autumn/early winter, access to the hunting grounds may be limited due to difficulties for vehicle travel on logging roads. For the large carnivores, there is similar flexibility in the establishment of hunting quotas.

For grouse and ducks, discussions on hunting regulations mainly concern timing of the hunting season. If the season starts too early the birds are still unfledged and considered too small to hunt. If the hunting season starts too late in the North migratory birds may have already moved south.

Possibilities exist to adjust hunting and the associated management systems in the Fennoscandian North to changes in wildlife populations that may result from the effects of climate change. However, social and economic factors that relate to the various interests in wildlife by local residents and those who come from outside the region also need to be considered in developing wildlife management plans. Management of wildlife in the Fennoscandian Arctic under conditions of a changing climate must be "adaptive" and thus capable of responding to changes in ecosystem dynamics that at times may be unpredictable and therefore unanticipated.

There is a need to establish a comprehensive monitoring program for all wildlife species (moose and some of the large carnivores are currently monitored within each country), with monitoring stations spread out over the Fennoscandian countries, and with coordination of these efforts. There is an urgent need for long-term data as a basis for identifying trends, and a similar need to secure information from remote areas. It is important to develop systems that give "early warning". Such procedures have been in development by the Finnish Game and Fisheries Research Institute that stimulate discussions on changes in hunting systems among and between hunters, wildlife biologists, and regional government wildlife consultants/managers. The resulting adjustment of hunting regulations based on a melding of the interests, concerns, experience, and observations of hunters with the expertise and investigative findings of trained wildlife biologists should provide relatively effective tracking of changes in wildlife populations as a consequence of possible changes in climate.

Chapter 11. Management and Conservation of Wildlife in a Changing Arctic Environment
11.1 Introduction
11.2 Management and conservation of wildlife in the Arctic
11.3 Climate change and terrestrial wildlife management
    11.3.1 Russian Arctic and sub-Arctic
    11.3.2 The Canadian North
    11.3.3 The Fennoscandian North
    11.3.4 The Alaskan Arctic
11.4 Management and conservation of marine mammals and seabirds in the Arctic
11.5 Critical elements of wildlife management in an Arctic undergoing change


^ CAFF, 2001a. Arctic Flora and Fauna: Status and Conservation. Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna, Helsinki, 272pp.








Committee, I. (2012). Climate change and terrestrial wildlife management in the Fennoscandian North. Retrieved from


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