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In Finland, hunting bounties for pest animals were first introduced in the 1647 hunting law. Avian pests were included in bounty schemes a century later when a price was put on more than 20 species. The list of bounty species varied widely during the next 200 years. We examined the development of bounty schemes in Finnish wildlife management during 1647–1975 with respect to the prevailing attitudes to nature and hunting practices. We surveyed Finnish hunting legislation from the 1300s to the present, and collected hunting bounty data from hunting associations' archives and from statistics published in hunting magazines during the 19th and 20th centuries. Local municipalities and the government, and also hunters' and fishermen's organizations, paid bounties for pest species. Bounties were considered justified for direct and indirect economic, religious and ethical reasons. Organized persecution of pests was considered a necessary component of game management. The ‘golden age’ of bounty schemes from 1898 to the 1920s contributed to local extinctions of both mammalian and avian species. The cessation of law-based bounty schemes in 1975 was preceded by a period of strong environmental thinking, and bounty schemes were widely considered costly, outdated and unethical.
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