Wolverine

Published by the Norwegian Environment Agency Lag rapport Les på norsk

The wolverine used to be widely distributed in Norway, but became locally extinct in parts of its range in the first half of the 20th century. In the last three years, the wolverine population in Norway has declined.

Population target reached

In 2017, 40 wolverine litters were registered in Norway. This is a little above the national population target, which is 39 litters a year.

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The map below shows where wolverine litters were registered in Norway in 2017. Each circle represents one litter.

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About 324 adult wolverines in Norway

Data from the national monitoring programme for large carnivores are used to provide annual estimates of how many wolverines there are in Norway. In 2017, the total winter population was estimated at 324 adult animals. The number of litters registered in the three preceding seasons is used as a basis for these estimates.

The Scandinavian wolverine population is divided into three main sub-populations:

  • a southwestern Norwegian population
  • the main easterly population (including wolverines in Nord-Trøndelag and Nordland counties
  • a northern population in the two northernmost counties of Norway (Troms and Finnmark) and northern Finland.

Hunting exterminated wolverines locally

The wolverine population in the southern half of Norway declined severely in the early 20th century as a result of hunting pressure. Wolverines became locally extinct. In winter 1964–65, ten wolverines were killed in the Jotunheimen mountains, and this probably wiped out the last breeding wolverine population in the southern half of the country.

Protected in 1973

After the severe decline in important parts of its range, the wolverine was protected in Sweden in 1968 and the southern half of Norway in 1973.

The establishment of a breeding population in the Rondane-Dovrefjell area in the period 1976–79 was probably a direct result of this, so that protection allowed wolverines to become re-established in an area where there had not been a resident population for more than 50 years. Breeding females have since colonised neighbouring areas of the mountains.

Since the 1970s, the population has grown in the three northernmost counties and the mountains of central and southern Norway.

Culling and conflict reduction

Since the 1990s, the environmental authorities have regulated wolverine numbers by culling. In areas where it has been decided that breeding wolverines are unwanted, culling is the most important means of regulating the population – either by setting a quota of wolverines that can be killed by licensed hunters in a particular area or by permitting killing of problem individuals

The map shows designated management areas for wolverine. You can zoom in or out to explore further.

Preventing and reducing conflict

In areas where livestock and domestic reindeer are given priority, measures to prevent or reduce wolverine-human conflicts are very important. These may include suitable fencing, bringing livestock in from rough grazing earlier than normal in the autumn, guarding livestock or using night-time enclosures. 

Monitoring the population

Wolverines are monitored as part of the national monitoring programme for large carnivores. The number of litters born every year is registered (both known denning areas and other suitable areas are checked), and samples of wolverine scat and hair are sent for DNA analysis. This provides more information on individual animals, habitat use and population structure.

International agreements that apply to wolverines

The Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats applies to the wolverine. The species is included in Appendix II, which lists strictly protected animal species.