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Norway jails five wolf hunters

Five wolf hunters have been sentenced to jail in Norway in an unprecedented environmental crackdown to protect a tiny stock of the predators living in the country. Conservationists welcomed the result.

The five men were given jail terms between six and 20 months on Tuesday for having illegally hunted wolves. They have been the first to be convicted for shooting wolves since a few dozen animals were re-introduced in Norway in a joint environmental project with Sweden in the 1990s.

Hunting had almost wiped out all wolves in Norway in the 1960s. Since 2010, the predators have been on the official Norwegian list of endangered species. Over the past winter, between 34 and 36 wolves were recorded living in Norway, with another 39 crossing the border from bigger stocks in neighboring Sweden, according to environmental monitoring group Rovdata.

Nina Jensen, head of the WWF conservation group in Norway, said the verdict handed out on Tuesday in the southeastern town of Elverum was a historic step that would encourage people to live with nature and allow wolves to roam. "Illegal hunting is the single largest cause of death for wolves in Norway," she said.

Locals complain about the wolves

However, many locals are worried about wild animals, complaining that packs of wolves kill sheep and even roam close to homes and schools.

Norwegian police built the case under laws for fighting organized crime, after intercepting phone calls between the men as they planned hunts. At least one of the men said he killed a wolf after mistaking it for a fox and declared he would appeal. The five hunters will not be sent to jail until appeals are exhausted, which could take months or even years.

In a study published in 2014, the journal Science estimated that 12,000 wolves lived in 28 countries across Europe and that populations were stable or even rising.

das/rc (Reuters, AFP)

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