In a highly controversial move, Sweden allowed hunters to kill a record 75 wolves. The country has an estimated population of 460
Swedish hunters will be allowed to cull 75 wolves out of an estimated population of 460 until the 15th February. It’s twice the number they were allowed to kill last year. As of Sunday, 54 wolves have already been killed.
Sweden is known to be a leading country in environmental protection, but has paradoxically had a historic opposition to wolves.
The issue has become increasingly controversial as environmental associations have condemned the hunting while rural farmers say wolves are a threat. In 2021, 368 livestock animals were killed by wolves.
In the 1960s, Sweden declared wolves a protected species as they were being hunted to the brink of extinction. They started growing and the country started allowing licensed hunts in 2010 when their numbers exceeded 200.
Brown bears, gluttons and lynxes are also allowed to be culled even though they are considered endangered.
A rural and urban controversy
“Wolves are a threat for those of us who live in rural areas,” says Kjell-Arne Ottosson, a Swedish member of parliament for the Christian Democrats and vice president of the environment and agriculture committee.
Wolves are seen as a threat as they occasionally attack livestock, mainly sheep, and are a menace to hunting dogs. “The purpose is simply to limit the problems they cause out in more rural areas,” 59-year-old Lars Björk explains.
“It is very difficult or even impossible to hunt with dogs when you have wolves in the area because they are likely to be attacked,” says Mikael Samuelsson, Vice President of the Swedish Hunters Association.
“The wolf issue has become a symbol of the conflict between the city and rural areas”, says Johanna Sandahl, president of the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, which denounces the decision taken by Stockholm in 2010 to restore the hunting of wolves, despite its status as a protected species.
She thinks the decision is “extremely worrying” as the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency says at least 300 are necessary to sustain a healthy population. The hunt should not take the estimated population number of 460 under that limit.
Wolves’ inbreeding poses a problem
In a letter published by Science magazine in July 2022, scientists argued the culls threatened a healthy Swedish wolf population. Inbreeding levels are estimated to be high, resulting in severe deformities.
Scientists say Finnish and Scandinavian stocks should be kept above 500. Sweden’s right and the far-right groups passed a motion in Parliament asking the government to take measures to reduce the number of wolves to between 170 and 270.
“To make this population viable, its size and immigration must therefore increase,” the researchers noted.
The last deadly attack by wild wolves was in 1821. Since then, a zookeeper was killed in 2012 by a pack of the zoo’s wolves.
In 2011, the EU opened an infringement procedure against Sweden, deeming the hunt “illegal”. Since then, no move has been done to further enforce this decision.