Police guidelines in case of wolves

Publication date 18.12.2020 16.00
News item

It is not always clear to citizens concerned about wolves who should be notified of wolf sightings in a managed yard, for example. The police have drawn up guidelines for wolf situations.

Yard “visits” by wolves can differ significantly in nature, and do not all necessarily involve an acute threat to life, health or property. In all areas where wolves can be found, they may come close to human habitation on individual occasions.

However, a wolf that has lost its fear of humans may pose a threat to human safety. Situations and wolf behaviour which can be judged as resulting from a wolf’s lack of fear of humans can be divided into the following categories (Management Plan for the Wolf Population in Finland / Police action related to large predators and wild boar 2020):

1.    Wolves causing concern

A wolf or wolf tracks are observed at a distance of less than 100 metres from a residential or production building, but not in a yard or on a road.

2.    A wolf that poses a potential threat

Wolf tracks are detected in the yard of an inhabited building or production building. Similarly, if a wolf is spotted in a yard and leaves the scene immediately after being spotted by a person. “Yard” refers to a managed area formed by residential or production buildings. Vacant free-time residences are not included.

3.    Wolves posing a threat or causing danger

A wolf is seen in the built environment or in people’s residential areas for longer than the duration of a random observation and immediate exit.

4.    Wolves causing serious danger

A wolf approaches a person or does not leave the scene in any other encounter, but stays in the area or behaves in a threatening manner. Similarly, situations where a wolf has already caused or attempted to cause personal injury or has attacked or attempted to attack a dog or other domestic animal (walked on a leash by the owner) outdoors.

Where to report sightings/situations

1.    The sorts of situation described in points 1 and 2  (a wolf causing concern or posing a potential threat) must be reported to a regional predator contact person. Their contact details can be found on the riista.fi website. Predator contact persons designated by the association for game management (Riistanhoitoyhdistys in Finnish) will ensure that these traces and sightings are checked and recorded in the large predator detection system (TASSU in Finnish).

2.    In the sorts of situation described in points 3 and 4 (a wolf causing danger or serious danger) must be reported by calling the emergency services (112), and the task will be forwarded to the police.

As a rule, the Finnish Wildlife Agency is the body that decides on situations in accordance with points 1 and 2 for chasing away the animal. The police is in charge of situation in accordance with points 3 and 4, and act in accordance with the instructions of the National Police Board of Finland in such situations, deciding on the necessary measures case by case.

3.    If a wolf has caused damage to domestic or farm animals, such as killing a hunting dog or a sheep or cow in pasture, a notification of this must be submitted to the local economic authority and the local contact person responsible for dealing with predator situations. Contact details of rural business authorities can be found on the website of the municipality in question.

Chasing away wolves and acts of necessity

Chasing a wolf from a self-managed yard or pasture without harming the wolf is permitted. For example, if a wolf attacks a dog, this may provide a justification for an act of necessity as provided for in Chapter 4, Section 5 of the Penal Code. Property may be defended in the event of an attack, provided that the conditions for an act of necessity are met.

More detailed information on the policies of the police relating to large predators and, for example, chasing the predator away oneself, and the application of the regulations relating to acts of necessity can be found in the guidelines of the National Police Board of Finland (in Finnish only), Poliisin toiminta suurpeto- ja villisikatilanteissa (www.poliisi.fi – Tietoa poliisista/Turvallisuus ja järjestys/Suurpetoasiat).