In a move sure to baffle conservationists the world over, wolf hunting season has opened up in Norway with 11,571 people registering for licenses to shoot 16 animals. By some estimates, that may be half the country’s wolf population, with as few as 30 individuals still left in the wild.

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Officials claim the hunt is necessary to protect livestock. And it’s true that around 1,500 sheep are killed every year in the country by wolves. However, that’s a drop in the bucket compared to the 2 million sheep raised by farmers in Norway each year, and hardly compares to the estimated 100,000 sheep that die in unrelated circumstances. According to a report last year in The Guardian, Norwegian farmers allow their sheep to roam the countryside freely without any kind of supervision, where their flocks frequently succumb to disease, drowning, fatal falls, and even collisions with passing trains. The threat posed by wolves seems insignificant compared to these other preventable dangers.

Related: New research reveals that culling wolves is actually bad for livestock

Norway’s policies on wolves put it out-of-step with European policies and its own stated aims of conservation. Wolves were completely wiped out in Norway in the 1960s before being reintroduced in the 80s. Since 2010, the country has listed wolves as a species in critical danger of extinction, supposedly banning hunts except in exceptional circumstances. Yet the government has issued hunting licenses by the thousands every year since, and environmentalists claim the number of breeding females allowed within the wolves’ designated habitat is not high enough to sustain a healthy population.

While Norway’s wolves do have a designated habitat in the south-eastern part of the country, the unlucky few that wander outside its borders will effectively receive a death sentence. Of course, government-issued hunting licenses are only a small part of the problem: illegal hunts within Norway are common, accounting for half of all wolves killed in Norway each year. So far, there’s only been a single case where hunters have been convicted for hunting wolves without a license.

Via The Guardian

Images via Max GoldbergSerge Melki