Every year there is news about hunting dogs being killed by wolves. On the basis of the reports it´s easy to be misinformed of the real threats encountered by hunting dogs. In Finland, as well as in Sweden dogs are used in hunting. This article is based on a Swedish insurance company Agria’s statistic data about accidents of hunting dogs.
About 40% of dogs in Sweden are insured by Agria. According to this company, traffic accidents are the biggest cause of death for hunting dogs. Damages caused by other wild animals than wolves happen eight times more often. In addition to this, about twenty dogs per year are lost during hunting and the same amount are killed because of missed shots. Numerous hunting dogs also drown in the ice or get hit by a train. These numbers are given only by one insurance company, so in reality the numbers are much higher.
From the news coverage in the media it’s easy to get the impression that wolves seek and kill in their territories every dog that they can find. In Sweden the Viltskadecenter (Wildlife Damage Centre) made an inquiry in 2006 for 141 hunting dog owners whose dog had died or gotten injured in confrontation with wolves. In 11% of the cases the dogs had been seen chasing the wolves before the confrontation. In only 14% of the cases the wolf or wolves had sought the dog, whereas in 75% of the cases the course of events had been unclear. Hence, it seems that it is as common for the dogs to seek the wolves, than it is the other way around. Many dogs are also trained for the hunting of large predators.
Cases where a hunting dog chases wolves could be avoided by training the dog to concentrate only on specific targets. Nowadays there aren´t any requirements for selective hunting behaviour for the dogs, in which case the hunting dogs disturb and chase also species that aren’t allowed to hunt. Every year there are cases where -for example- a bear, harassed by a dog in its winter nest has been shot on the basis of self-protection. The period when dogs are allowed to disturb wild animals is long, taking more than seven months (20.8.-1.3.).
By law, keeping the dogs loose is tightly regulated, except for hunting dogs: there is no direct order to keep the dogs on a leash and they can run freely on wide areas without supervision. There is no demand for the training of the hunting dogs either, nor is there any qualification required from the supervisor of the dog compared to the police or the customs service dogs, which are allowed to work only after years of training and demanding tests.
Altogether, 45 confrontations between a dog and a wolf were registered in Finland in the year 2016. As a comparison, there are estimated to be around 800 000 dogs in Finland. In the year 2016, damages to dogs by wolves concerned about 0,005% of Finnish dog population. In comparison, between the years 2015-2016, 78 wolves died, consisting around 25-28% of Finland´s wolf population for that period.
In many cases dog damages are a sufficient cause for getting a wolf hunting permit, even though defending their territory against other dog animals is part of the natural behaviour of wolves. Monetary compensations are given even for an uninsured dog in Finland. Breed dogs´ basic value is 1 600 euros and dogs of mixed breed are 800 euros. In addition, the value is increased for example for the dogs training and hunting success. At its peak 17 000 euros have been paid for a dog. In the year 2016 over 150 000 euros were paid for dog damages. The compensations don’t remove the hate of wolves.