According to an assessment by the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke), the number of bears in Finland was 1,720 to 1,840 before the 2016 hunting season opens. This figure includes the number of cubs, thought to be around 350, to which females gave birth this summer. This means that the bear population in Finland has increased by 15 per cent compared to the assessment made in the previous year (1,450–1,590).

With regard to the management of the bear population, Finland is divided into four population management areas. In the Eastern Finland population management area, where the population is well established, the population increased (650–720 individuals, as opposed to 485–550 in the previous assessment.) The bear population also increased in Central Finland, in a zone into which bears are now in the process of spreading (505–570 individuals; the previous figure was 400–480.) In Western Finland, in an area where the bear population is in the process of being established, the population declined somewhat (221–281 individuals as opposed to 268–338 individuals in the previous assessment.)

In the reindeer husbandry area, the bear population increased somewhat (being now 345–400 individuals, as opposed to 300–360 bear in the previous assessment.) The bear population in the reindeer husbandry area is at its densest along the Russian border.

Statements by Luke on assessments of population size are available at Riistahavainnot.fi (in Finnish).

Research lays the foundation for the management of the bear population

Luke assesses the size of the bear population early each year. Researchers investigate the age and gender distribution of the bear population, as well as its genetic make-up. In addition to gaining information on the behaviour of large carnivores, such as their food, travel patterns and habitat, the coexistence between large carnivores and humans is an important study area. Acting in collaboration with the Finnish Wildlife Agency, Luke compiles annual statistics on the number of bears killed by hunters.

Research results lay the foundation for the management of the bear population such information is used when taking decisions on the hunting of bears. International obligations, such as the EU Habitats Directive, require that the size of the bear population be monitored.

With regard to the supervision of large carnivores, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is the leading and highest authority in Finland. The Finnish Wildlife Agency is charged with implementing Finland’s game policy, promoting sustainable game management and providing support for local regional game councils.

Photo on top of the page: Petri Timonen / Luke