Is The End Of Bear Hunting In Finland A Good Thing?

Bear Hunt Ban Causes Controversy In Finland

Stock image of a Brown Bear (Ursus Arctos). Credit: Canon Boy/

Recent legislation in Finland has meant that its long tradition of bear hunting will come to an end as Finns know it.

On Monday, October 30, key decisions were made by Finland’s Supreme Administrative Court. It found that Riistakeskus, the nation’s game authority, granted bear hunting permits for 2022 without adequate justification, making them unlawful, writes YLE.

Long-Standing Traditions Questioned

The hunting of bears and some other large carnivores is banned in the EU under the Habitats Directive. In Finland, in the reindeer husbandry area, permits have been granted on the basis of damage, while outside the reindeer husbandry area, the Finnish Game Centre has granted herd management exceptions for shooting bears.

‘Bear hunting has long traditions in Finland. The fact that our chance to continue this tradition is hampered feels unfair,’ said Saara Heikkinen, a resident of Pudasjarvi in North Ostrobothnia, who has marked the start of her summer holidays with the bear hunt for the past three years. However, this tradition might now be in jeopardy

Experts, including Vesa Ruusila from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and specialist Jussi Laanikari, share a similar sentiment. They believe this verdict could signal the end of bear hunting as it currently stands in Finland. ‘In this format, bear hunting will not continue A comparable decision was made previously about lynx hunting, so this wasn’t not a complete surprise,’ Ruusila commented.

Impact On Canine Companions

Heikkinen and her husband own three plot dogs and a grey Norwegian Elkhound, all trained for bear hunting: ‘The beginning of the bear hunt is what we and our dogs look forward to all year. It’s about letting the dogs do what they’re bred for.’

With the potential alteration in hunting traditions, the future of these dogs becomes uncertain. She explained that for the dogs’ well-being, an alternative will have to be found. Reportedly, some Finnish hunters have explored hunting opportunities in neighbouring countries like Estonia, Latvia, and Sweden.

Hunting Regulations And Population Control

In Sweden, which has a larger bear population of about 2,500, county governments issue bear hunting permits. This year, they granted 649 permits for the whole of Sweden. Conversely, in Finland, it’s the Game Centre’s responsibility. They issued 180 permits this autumn, a decrease due to the dwindling bear population which currently stands at about 1,925.

Concerns For Safety And Wildlife Management

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s latest bear population management plan leans heavily on hunting. However, the current scenario might change this approach.

The Supreme Administrative Court largely dictates how Finland’s large carnivore policy should be implemented. Going forward, only permits based on damage or safety concerns will be granted.

According to experts, The new legislation won’t effectively control the bear population, Sauli Harkonen, who oversees public administration tasks at the Finnish Game Centre, said: ‘There are isolated instances for situations where a bear slaughters, for example, a herd of sheep. Finland’s game authority can also grant a permit in severe cases upon a police request.

The halt in hunting could lead to a surge in the bear population, elevating the chances of human-bear interactions and potential problems. The example of Romania has been cited, where a growing bear population has led to issues.

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Written by

John Ensor

Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina. He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.