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The expanding lynx population is exciting and dividing public opinion. Even though the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has increased the number of permits to hunt these wildcats over the past couple of years, hunters say the population still needs to be culled further. Nature conservationists do not see the point in hunting them at all.
It is estimated that the number of lynx in the wild in Finland has risen to around 2500 in recent years. At the same time as this expansion in the population was being seen, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry increased the number of permits for hunters to shoot lynx to almost 500. For example, in South Häme there are thought to be a good 100 of the animals. This season, permits were issued to bring down 15.
“That’s not enough. The balance of nature starts to get upset if the lynx population grows too large,” argues Mikko Simola, Chairman of the Lahti Regional Hunters’ Association.
The Finnish Game and Fisheries Research Institute recommended to the Ministry that significantly fewer hunting permits for lynx be issued than was actually the case. Defenders of this feline predator claim the number of permits is both exaggerated and illegal.
“Under the EU’s nature conservation directives, the lynx is a species in need of special protection, not one to be hunted. The whole management plan is being carried out totally on the conditions set by hunters,” claims Jukka Pellinen, a conservation-minded resident of Hollola where local forests are home to about a dozen of the animals.
Now and then a lynx may approach human habitation, but usually the shy animals stay well away from people. Neither hunters, nor conservationists see lynx as arousing the same kind of almost instinctive animosity as do wolves.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a hatred of predators, but it does bother hunters when they go after the same game. That causes a clash of values,” explains Mikko Simola.
Pellinen doesn’t understand portraying lynx as a threat, and suspects that hunters are just looking after their own interests.
“As the number of lynx grows, hunting them becomes a more popular pastime. The lynx is a large predator and large predators are always a favourite target for hunters,” says Jukka Pellinen.
Pellinen is also quick to point out to anyone who is afraid of lynx that there is not a single recorded case of a lynx threatening a human being.