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Sunday, August 30, 1998 Published at 18:10 GMT 19:10 UK

World: Europe

Norway officials wolf down last of a species

Ministry officials enjoyed "one hell of a dinner"

By Tony Samstag in Oslo

It has emerged that, in 1984, bureaucrats in the Norwegian ministry of environment dined on cutlets of what was thought to be Norway's only remaining indigenous wolf.

The story came up after a small conservationist pressure group, in connection with a complex legal action against the Norwegian government, asked to examine the remains of 10 wolves that had died one way or another between 1974 and 1992.

The directorate for nature management - the department in the ministry of environment responsible for wildlife conservation, and for looking after tissue and bone samples of protected animals that have died in suspicious circumstances - produced remains of several of the wolves that were suspiciously incomplete.

It was a former employee of the government agency - a scientist specialising in lynx, as it happens - who spilled the beans, so to speak, to a tabloid newspaper.

His story has now been confirmed by the directorate.

Shot illegally by a farmer

The victim, known as the Vegaarshei Wolf, after the Southern district in which it was found, was shot illegally by a farmer in January, 1984.

Although the wolf population has recovered somewhat since then, at the time this specimen was possibly the only wolf in the country.

And, according to scientists, it was the first in 85 years to be found far enough from Sweden that it could be confidently considered a purely Norwegian strain, as opposed to a hybrid or interloper from across the border.

The animal was arguably the most important wolf to be shot in Norway this century.

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