European Journal of Wildlife Research

, Volume 60, Issue 5, pp 759–770 | Cite as

Strong community support for illegal killing challenges wolf management

  • Mari Pohja-MykräEmail author
  • Sami Kurki
Original Paper


In Finland, the conservation of large mammalian carnivores—brown bear, lynx, wolf and wolverine—is undermined by illegal killings that have commonly taken place after the implementation of national carnivore management plans. This hidden form of criminality cannot occur to such an extent without strong support from the local community. We examined the support of proximate groups by collecting data from hunters and women. In collecting data, we used non-active role playing with empathy-based fictitious stories. We used argumentation analysis to reveal the assumed species, the background of the illegal killing and especially the justifications and importance of community support for illegal killing. The results show that we have a conflict with strong basic emotions in hand as both illegal killing and support for illegal killing and hunting violators are based on anger and fear for children and domestic animals as well as frustration toward the authorities and the lack of proper management actions. The wolf is at the centre of the conflict due to the specific character of the species. Current policies have inevitably been lacking in terms of place-based policy, and that has led to conflicts between game management authorities/researchers and ordinary citizens. To facilitate a change in attitudes, we suggest focusing on affective factors via confidence-building measures.


Large carnivore management Illegal killing Societal sustainability Wolf management 



Thanks go to the Rural Women's Advisory Organization in Kainuu, Satakunta, and South-West Finland and the Finnish Wildlife Agency’s regional agencies in Satakunta and Northern-Savo. Many thanks to Jukka Bisi, Juha Hiedanpää, Pirjo Ilvesviita, Sakari Mykrä, JannePitkänen and TimoVuorisalo for their contributions to the article. These results are part of a research project Toward societal sustainability in large carnivore management—background and importance of illegal killing funded by The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of Finland.


  1. Agarwala M, Kumar S, Treves A, Naughton-Treves L (2010) Paying for wolves in Solapur, India and Wisconsin, USA: comparing compensation rules and practice to understand the goals and politics of wolf conservation. Biol Conserv 143:2945–2955CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ajzen I, Fishbein M (2000) Attitudes and the attitude–behavior relation: reasoned and automatic processes. In: Stroebe W, Hewstone M (Eds), EurRev SocPsychol, Vol 11. Wiley, West SussexGoogle Scholar
  3. Billig M (1996) Arguing and thinking: a rhetorical approach to social psychology. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  4. Bisi J, Kurki S (2008) Wolf debate in Finland. Expectations and objectives for the management of wolf population in regional and national level. Publications 12, University of Helsinki, Ruralia Institute, SeinäjokiGoogle Scholar
  5. Bisi J, Liukkonen T, Mykrä S, Pohja-Mykrä M, Kurki S (2010) The good bad wolf—wolf evaluation reveals the roots of the Finnish wolf conflict. Eur J Wild life Res 56:771–779CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bisi J, Kurki S, Svensberg M, Liukkonen T (2007) Human dimensions of wolf (Canis lupus) conflicts in Finland. Eur J Wildlife Res 53:304–314CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bjerke T, Kaltenborn BP (1999) The relationship of ecocentric and anthropocentric motives to attitudes toward large carnivores. J Environ Psych 19:415–421CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bjerke T, Kaltenborn BP, Thrane C (2001) Sociodemographic correlates of fear-related attitudes toward the wolf (Canis lupus lupus). Fauna Norvegica 21:25–33Google Scholar
  9. Bjerke T, Reitan O, Kellert SR (1998) Attitudes toward wolves in southeastern Norway. Soc Nat Resour 11:169–178CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Borgström S (2011) Legitimacy issues in Finnish Wolf Conservation. J Environ Law 1–26Google Scholar
  11. Breckler SJ (1984) Empirical validation of affect, behavior, and cognition as distinct components of attitude. J Pers Soc Psychol 47:1191–1205PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Eagly A, Chaiken S (1993) The psychology of attitudes. Harcourt, Brace College, Fort WorthGoogle Scholar
  13. Ericsson G, Heberlein TA (2003) Attitudes of hunters, locals, and the general public in Sweden now that the wolves are back. Biol Conserv 111:149–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Erwin P (2001) Attitudes and persuasion. Taylor & FrancisGoogle Scholar
  15. Eskola A (1988) Non-active role-playing; some experiences. In: Eskola A, Kihlström A, Kivinen D, Weckroth K, Ylijoki OH (eds) Blind alleys in social psychology: a search for ways out. Elsevier, AmsterdamGoogle Scholar
  16. Eskola J, Suoranta J (1998) Johdatus laadulliseen tutkimukseen. OsuuskuntaVastapaino, Tampere, pp 52–59Google Scholar
  17. Gavin M, Solomon J, Blank SG (2010) Measuring and monitoring illegal use of natural resources. Conserv Biol 24:89–100PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gore ML, Kahler JS (2012) Gendered risk perceptions associated with human–wildlife conflict: implications for participatory conservation. PLoS One 7(3):e32901. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0032901 PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  19. Grönfors M (1999) Violence, masculinity and men in Sri Lanka. In: Eskola J (ed) Tätä kehtoo tutkia. Sosiaalitieteitä savolaisittain. Kuopionyliopistonselvityksiä E. Yhteiskuntatieteet 14, Kuopio University Occasional Reports E. Soc Sci 14:151–156Google Scholar
  20. Jacobs MH, Vaske JJ, Roemer JM (2012) Toward a mental systems approach to human relationships with wildlife: the role of emotional dispositions. Hum Dimens Wildl 17:4–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Jhala YV, Sharma DK (1997) Child-lifting by wolves in Eastern Uttar Pradesh, India. J Wild Res 2:94–101Google Scholar
  22. Johansson M, Karlsson J, Pedersen E, Flykt A (2012a) Factors governing human fear of brownbear and wolf. Hum Dimens Wildl 17:68–74CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Johansson M, Sjöström M, Karlsson J, Brännlund R (2012b) Is human fear affecting publicwillingness to pay for the management and conservation of large carnivores? Soc Nat Resour 25:610–620CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Karlsson J, Sjöström M (2007) Human attitudes towards wolves, a matter of distance. Biol Conserv 137:610–616CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kojola I, Heikkinen S, Helle P (2011) Susikannan viimeaikaiset muutokset Suomessa eri aineistojen valossa. Suomen Riista 57:55–62Google Scholar
  26. Kruuk H (2002) Hunter and hunted–relationships between carnivores and people. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kumar S (2003) Wolf–human conflicts in Uttar Pradesh, India. 3rd International Wildlife Management Congress. Christchurch, New ZealandGoogle Scholar
  28. Lambert WW, Lambert WE (1971) Sosiaalipsykologia, KJ GummerusOy, Jyväskylä. Original Print: Social Psychology 1964. Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJGoogle Scholar
  29. Liberg O, Chapron G, Wabakken P, Pedersen HC, Hobbs NT, Sand H (2012) Shoot, shovel and shut up: cryptic poaching slows restoration of a large carnivore in Europe. Proc R Soc B 279(1730):910–915PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  30. Linnell J, Andersen D, Andersone R et al (2002) The fear of wolves: a review of wolf attacks on humans. NINA Oppdragsmelding 731:1–65Google Scholar
  31. Linnell J, Solberga EJ, Brainerda S et al (2003) Is the fear of wolves justified? A Fennoscandian perspective. Acta Zool Lit 13:34–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Liukkonen T, Mykrä S, Bisi J, Kurki S (2006) Ilveksiä ja ihmisiä. Julkaisuja 7, Ruralia Institute, University of Helsinki, SeinäjokiGoogle Scholar
  33. Livneh H, Antonak RF (1994) Indirect methods to measure attitudes toward persons with disabilities. Rehabil Educ 8:103–137Google Scholar
  34. Majić A (2007) Human dimensions in wolf management in Croatia: understanding public attitudes toward wolves over time and space. Thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John’sGoogle Scholar
  35. McNaught DA (1987) Wolves in Yellowstone—park visitors respond. Wildl Soc Bull 15:518–521Google Scholar
  36. MAF (2005) Management plan for the wolf population in Finland. Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry 11b/2005, VammalankirjapainoOyGoogle Scholar
  37. McNay ME (2002) Wolf–human interactions in Alaska and Canada: a review of the case history. Wildl Soc Bull 30:831–843Google Scholar
  38. McNay ME, Mooney PW (2005) Attempted predation of a child by a grey wolf, Canis lupus, near Icy Bay, Alaska. Can Field-Nat 119:197–201Google Scholar
  39. Mykrä S, Pohja-Mykrä M (2005) Some history regarding Finland’s policy on wolves and attitudes to them. In: Bisi J, Kurki S. The wolf debate in Finland. Publications 12, University of Helsinki, Ruralia Institute, Oy Fram Ab, VaasaGoogle Scholar
  40. Mykrä S, Liukkonen T, Bisi J, Kurki S (2006) Kansalaisten karhukannat. Julkaisuja 6, Ruralia Institute, University of Helsinki, SeinäjokiGoogle Scholar
  41. Oatley K, Jenkins JM (1996) Understanding emotions. Blackwell Publishing, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  42. Parrott W (ed) (2001) Emotions in social psychology. Psychology Press, PhiladelphiaGoogle Scholar
  43. Pellikka J, Lindén H, Rita H, Svensberg M (2007) Motives for voluntary wildlife monitoring in Finnish hunting teams. Wildl Biol 13:1–10CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Pohja-Mykrä M, Kurki S (2008) Asialistalla ahma. Julkaisuja 13, Ruralia Institute, University of Helsinki, SeinäjokiGoogle Scholar
  45. Pohja-Mykrä M, Kurki S (2013) Suurpetopolitiikka kriisissä – salakaadot ja yhteisön tuki. Raportteja 98, Ruralia Institute, University of Helsinki.Google Scholar
  46. Pohja-Mykrä M, Kurki S (2014) Kansallisen suurpetopolitiikan kehittämisarviointi (Evaluation of national large carnivore management), Raportteja 114, Ruralia Institute, University of HelsinkiGoogle Scholar
  47. Pohja-Mykrä M, Vuorisalo T, Mykrä S (2005) Hunting bounties as a key measure for historical wildlife management and game conservation: Finnish bounty schemes in 1647–1975. Oryx 39:284–291CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Pousette E (2000) De människoätande vargarna. BjørkelangenBok & Papir, BjørkelangenGoogle Scholar
  49. Pyka M, Nyqvist A, Monstad T, Hagstedt J, Korsell L (2007) Illegal jakt på stora rovdjur. Konflikt i laglöst land? Brå rapport No22, Brottsförebyggande rådet, StockholmGoogle Scholar
  50. Rantanen T, Vesala KM (1999) Soveltuuko asenteen käsitemyöslaadulliseentutkimukseen? Psykologia 5–6:343–348Google Scholar
  51. Ratamäki O (2008) Finland’s wolf policy and new governance. J Environ Dev 17:316–339CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Rosenberg MJ (1960) A structural theory of attitude dynamics. Publ Opin Q 24:319–340CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Røskaft E, Handel B, Bjerke T, Kaltenborn BP (2007) Human attitudes towards large carnivores in Norway. Wildl Biol 13(2):172–185CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Schanning K (2009) Human dimensions: public opinion research concerning wolves in the Great Lakes States of Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. In: Wydeven AP, Van DeelenTR, HeskeEJ. (eds) Recovery of gray wolves in the Great Lakes Region of the United States. Springer, New York, pp 1–15Google Scholar
  55. Simpura J, Fahrenkrug H, Hyttinen M, Thorsten T (1990) Drinking, everyday life situations and cultural norms in Denmark, Finland, and West Germany: an experiment with non-active role-playing. J Drug Issues 20:403–416Google Scholar
  56. Smith DW, Bangs EE, Oaklea FJK et al (2010) Survival of colonizing wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains of the United States, 1982–2004. J Wildl Manage 74:620–634CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Teel TL, Manfredo MJ (2010) Understanding the diversity of public interests in wildlife conservation. Conserv Biol 24:128–139PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Teperi J (1977) Sudet Suomen rintamaiden ihmisten uhkana 1800-luvulla. Historiallisiatutkimuksia 101.Suomenhistoriallinenseura, HelsinkiGoogle Scholar
  59. Treves A, Karanth KU (2003) Human–carnivore conflict and perspectives on carnivore management worldwide. Conserv Biol 17:1491–1499CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Vaske JJ, Roemer JM, Taylor JG (2013) Situational and emotional influences on the acceptability of wolf management actions in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Wildl Soc Bul 37:122–128CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Verchick RRM (2004) Feminist theory and environmental justice. New perspectives on environmental justice: gender, sexuality and activism. New Brunswick Rutgers: University PressGoogle Scholar
  62. Vesala K, Rantanen T (2007) Laadullinen asennetutkimus: lähtökohtia, periaatteita, mahdollisuuksia. In: Vesala K, Rantanen T (eds) Argumentaatio ja tulkinta. Laadullisen asennetutkimuksen lähestymistapa. Gaudeamus, Helsinki, pp 11–61Google Scholar
  63. Williams CK, Ericsson G, Heberlein TA (2002) A quantitative summary of attitudes toward wolves and their reintroduction 1972–2000. Wildl Soc Bull 30:575–584Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ruralia InstituteUniversity of HelsinkiSeinäjokiFinland

Personalised recommendations