OSLO (Reuters) - The population of brown bears in Finland dipped by 5% from last year after rising continuously since 2012, the government said on Friday, after the country increased the hunting quota, partly to protect reindeer.
The brown bear is protected by the European Union’s Habitats Directive but Finland allowed increased hunting last year, saying the population is large enough to be regulated under the “natural habitat” directive, which allows some hunting.
The current bear population is estimated at between 2,020-2,130, down from between 2,130-2,260 bears in 2018.
The agriculture and forestry ministry said it had allowed a higher than average hunting quota, of 355 bears, last year to stabilize population growth and prevent long-term reindeer damage. For this year, the ministry lowered the quota to 313 bears.
The areas where hunting is allowed are specified and set in a way so that more bears are killed in reindeer herding territories, to protect indigenous herders such as the Samis, and juvenile bears may not be hunted.
Excluding Russia, which has the world’s largest population of brown bears, Finland is among Europe’s top three habitats together with Romania and Sweden.
Reporting by Lefteris Karagiannopoulos; Editing by Victoria Klesty and Frances Kerry