Hunters who will not report illegal wolf killing: Self-policing or resistance with political overtones?
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Illegal killing of wildlife is challenging conservation efforts worldwide. Ecological research has shown that illegal killing is severely affecting the transboundary Swedish-Norwegian wolf population. A previous study indicated that unwillingness to report illegal killing of wolves among Swedish hunters contains an element of protest against perceived unjust treatment of hunting and hunters but that it could also simply be a reflection of ineffective law enforcement in the backcountry, driving hunters to effect forms of selfpolicing. Based on a survey of Norwegian hunters, the present research goes one step further. One in five hunters decline to report illegal wolf killings, and unwillingness to report is predicted by lack of trust in environmental institutions and a general anti-elite sentiment. Huntingrelated issues and other factors also affect outcomes, but to a lesser degree. We conclude that unwillingness to report is often part of an oppositional stance related not only to wildlife management and conservation, but to contemporary social change in rural areas and perceived societal power relations. It is unlikely that reluctance to report is driven by frustration over inefficient official enforcement. While a political dimension is not always articulated, overlooking it may stoke conflicts and fortify a perception of unjust power relations. Keywords Enforcement Hunters Illegal killing Resistance Self-sanctioning Wolves