The vests contain chili cartridges. An attacking wolf biting into the vest will hopefully be deterred when it gets a chili blast in its face and mouth and cease its attack. The devices are to be ready for testing this spring. This year alone 52 dogs have been injured by wolves.
You might think that it would be much simpler just to shoot or trap the wolves. However in Finland the grey wolf is a protected species. They cannot be killed without special permission. There are as few as 250 wolves in Finland most in the east as near the town of Nurmes.
The chili vests were invented by Jussi Aro, who has been striving to develop a non-lethal means to stop wolf attacks on dogs for nearly a decade. He is not a Nurmes local but chose the town as a trial spot because of the large number of attacks on dogs and the many wolves reported in the area. In Nurmes, residents fear allowing their pets or their children out of doors.
Prototypes of Aro’s chili vests were available in 2014 but their first trial will be in Spring of 2017. People who are taking part in the test have been asked to keep a list of the benefits and defects in the vests. Aro describes his invention laughing: “It’s my own one-man war.” Local police report that a wolf was illegally killed in Nurmes late last month.
Earlier this year, the Finnish government authorized a month-long cull from late January to February 21. Conservationists oppose the cull claiming that the wolf population in Finland is already too small and a cull puts their genetic base even further at risk. However, wolf packs kill numbers of livestock, and many dogs. People in residential areas fear them.
There are about 35 known packs in the country most in the east. In 2016, 46 permits were issued to hunt wolves as part of the cull. Authorities claim the cull cuts down on illegal poaching. A decision as to whether the cull program is to be continued is to be made the end of this year. Wolves are becoming braver and are now seen more often in inhabited areas. The cull and special permits resulted in 46 wolves being killed this year. Many dogs that are killed are accompanying elk hunters. Ake Haittunen a hunter himself says that hunters who let their dogs loose in the forest simply are taking their chances. He claims that game management of the wolves in Finland is actually against several laws including the Hunting Act that is based upon sustainability.