Let's shoot is a prayer – NRK Nordland

Let's shoot is a prayer – NRK Nordland

– At most I have counted 90 moose at one time. Last year there were 60 people in the field at the same time.

That's what farmer Johan Christian Ivarrud says in Susendal in the border municipality of Hatfjeld.

In the spring, the moose struggles to find food, and searches down into the valleys in the municipality, where it rapidly escapes.

As Hattfjelldal borders Sweden, many moose cross the border in the spring.

– They invade the infield and eat the old grass. They don't realize it's nutritious, but they bite into it.

Irud also knows that dead moose have been found, starved to death during the winter.

The forest is grazing

The municipality is well aware of this problem.

In 2018, an animal tragedy occurred that the Norwegian Food Safety Authority had never seen before. At least 40 animals were found dead and emaciated, and the actual number was feared to be twice as high.

Six years later, the situation has improved slightly.

Moose in the infield of Christian Iverrut in Hatfjeld.

Photo: Johan Christian Iverrud

So far, 6-7 adults and 9 calves have died, but many have fled or died of injuries.

The municipality tried to address the challenges by increasing the hunting quota in the municipality.

– But the problem is that allocations are not taken.

says Ad Ringo. He is the Head of Soil, Forest and Nature Management in Hattfjelldal Municipality.

A recent grazing survey shows that there is little food available.

One hand holds the spruce, showing how the moose has given off all the new buds.

The moose have supplied themselves well from the spruce trees in the Hutfjeld.

Photo: Lars-Peter Kalkenberg / NRK

In some areas, 90 percent of deciduous forests and 40 percent of coniferous forests have been grazed.

– We cannot create new pastures. Moose work so hard that new growth stops.

says Niels Henrik Andersen of the Hattfjelldal Forest Owners Association.

– We are past the point where the moose are starting to destroy themselves. Too little to take off each winter, it grazes all over the bottom.

Elk in Hatfjeld

A sign of spring in Hattfjelldal is the large number of moose gathering in the fields in Hattfjelldal.

Photo: Terje Håkonsen

Small moose in the south

Moose researcher Erling Johann Solberg I The Norwegian Institute for Natural Research is familiar with the large moose tribe in Hutfjeld and the border municipalities in Nordland.

This is in stark contrast to the situation in southern Norway and southern Sweden. The moose population is in free fall.

– At the moment we have the same growth in Norway and Sweden. This is mainly due to increased poaching. But we are also seeing a decline in calf production.

According to researchers, this could be due to climate change.

– Moose is a species not adapted to hot climates.

ELGEN-I-HATTFJELLDAL-300424-NO

Moose in Hatfjeld graze last year's grass in hopes of finding food. These individuals may be Swedish moose that crossed the border.

Will moose move north due to climate change?

– BIn the long term, we assume that the range of moose in Norway will rise further and further north in the landscape. We think you'll get more moose in the colder parts of the country, and moose will struggle in the lower, warmer parts of southern Norway.

– But we're not there yet?

– No. We still have moose in the municipality of Lindesnes, as well as along the coast up to the Oslofjord. But we see moose particularly struggling in the coastal areas between Lindesnes and Oslo. “There are a lot of unexplained deaths that we don't understand, but we suspect it's because of these hot summers we've had in recent years,” Solberg says.

Warmer weather also affects the food moose live on.

Erling Johann Solberg, Nina

– Although southern Norway has experienced population decline in recent years, the opposite is true for Nordland and further north. The population there has mostly grown more or less over the past 30 years, says Erling Johan Solberg, a senior researcher at Nina.

Photo: Norwegian Institute for Natural Research / Nina

– We believe that heat changes the quality of moose pasture vegetation. This means moose can't take in as much nutrients during the summer as they used to.

– Elk is a species adapted to cold northern climates. It's good at dealing with cold, snowy winters, but it's poorly suited to hot summers. So it often has to use energy to get rid of heat.

Shooting less than 60 percent

In Hattfjelldal, 172 animals were culled in 2023, providing less than 60 percent of the quota.

– There are huge quotas. Once the freezer is full, you don't need to hunt anymore, says Od Ringso at the municipality.


Plus, she points out, hunting is expensive. Both hunting, catching animals and delivering them to the slaughterhouse cost money.

Niels Henrik Andersen of the Forest Owners Association points to another reason.

– Generally, people underestimate how difficult it is to find and kill a moose in a given terrain over a period of time.

A moose carcass in Hutfjeld

Such scenes were not uncommon in 2018 when a dozen moose starved to death in a forest in Hatfjeld.

Photo: Lars-Peter Kalkenberg / NRK

Moose researcher Erling Solberg recalls the animal tragedy in 2018. That is why population control is important.

You start hitting the ceiling. You have no experience with such high stocking densities, and you don't fully know if the environment can handle that many moose over time.

A warm welcome to hunters

The municipality will follow the moose researcher's advice. Now hunters from far and near are warmly welcomed to the “Moose Dorado” in Hatfjeld.

Portrait of Aud Ringsoe.

Aud Ringsö is the material manager for soil forest and landscape management at the municipality of Hatfjeldal.

Photo: Lars-Peter Kalkenberg / NRK

– Statsskog has large areas where they hire for hunting, and a lot of skilled hunters come from outside. We certainly welcome all good hunters, says Od Ringso, object manager at Hatfjeldal municipality.

To achieve a sustainable moose population, 60 percent of the calves and young animals and 40 percent of the adults are removed.

A two-part hunt

Andersen at the Hutfjeldahl Forest Owners Association believes hunting should be two-fold.

– This was achieved nowhere else in Europe. The first is recreational hunting, where you avoid most hunters.

So when the normal hunt is over, you switch to what's called a management hunt to take out the animals that are on the quota.

– Then more demands are placed on the participants, and then the effective hunt begins. In Sweden, the hunt is free, but the landowner owns the game, Andersson says.



12.05.2024 at 07.53 hrs

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