Wolf zone: Encounters in Norway's Polar Park

Story highlights

  • Hunting and habitat loss has led to fewer than 30 gray wolves in Norway
  • Most now live in a "wolf zone" in the country's southeastern corner
  • Despite this, surveys show Norwegians remain afraid of them

(CNN)For thousands of years, large numbers of gray wolves roamed across Norway.

Thanks to hunting and habitat loss, today there may be fewer than 30 living in the Norwegian wild.
    Protected since 1973, most of these now live in a single, highly managed pack in a "wolf zone" in the country's southeastern corner.
    Polar Park is the world's northernmost wildlife park. It opened in 1994 in the heart of Norwegian Lapland and is home to seven gray wolves.
    The Scandinavian wolf, which is more heavily built than its more southerly European counterparts, typically weighs around 40 kilograms, with males larger than females.
    They prey on everything from moose and deer to sheep and goats.
    Although Norwegian wolves have been shown to take no more than 1,500 sheep a year (out of annual losses of 100,000), many Norwegian farmers support their total eradication.

    Lack of understanding

    Despite the fact that nobody in Norway has been killed or injured by a wolf for more than 200 years, surveys have shown that many Norwegians remain afraid of them.
    As the Norwegian wolf has been present in very small numbers for decades, this fear is largely based on a lack of understanding and experience with the animal.
    With more than 11,000 hunters recently applying for licenses to shoot 16 wild wolves in an approved government cull, the future of the Norwegian wolf now hangs in the balance.
    An ongoing initiative in Norway's far north, which aims to separate lupine fact from fiction, may prove critical in their fight for survival.

    Polar Park, Bonesveien, 9360 Norway;