The Swedish Government approved 27 wolves to be culled in a license hunt in early 2010. In total 28 were killed. A new license hunt has now been approved with a start 15 January 2011, this time 20 wolves are allowed to be shot.
WWF Sweden has protested strongly against the decimation hunt as it is not in accordance with the EU legal regulations (Habitat and Species Directive) and the Swedish subpopulation is highly vulnerable due to inbreeding. Therefore WWF Sweden and three other Swedish nature conservation organisations made a formal complaint to the European Commission in March 2010. There has been correspondence between EU and the Swedish government concerning the wolf cull in 2010 and in January 2011 it is expected that the EU, will respond to the answers the Swedish government has given to the very tough questions from the EU.
The Swedish Parliament voted on the 21st of October 2009 in favour of a Large Carnivore bill put forward by the government, which suggested that a larger hunt of wolves should start in 2010. The first one in almost 50 years. The bill has also opened the possibility for a hunt of wolverine and for lowering the number of lynx in Sweden by hunting. The government decided that there should be no more than 210 wolves in Sweden, but there should be 20 reproductive pairs, which means 200-210 individuals. In addition, up to 20 wolves with ”fresh blood” from the Finnish/Russian subpopulation can be introduced into the reproduction in Sweden in order to genetically strengthen the inbred wolf population. The translocation of wolves could be done either by moving wolves, which have migrated from Finland into northern Sweden, and/or moving individuals from Finland and Norway or add wolf pups from zoos to a wolf den in the wild. The governmental bill, which was passed, has the translocation of new wolves in to the reproduction as equal in importance to the hunt itself, but they do not guarantee that it will happen – only that up to 20 individuals can be introduced up to 2014.
In mid-December 2009 the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) announced that 27 wolves could be shot during the license hunt. The hunt started on the 2nd of December 2010 and more than 12,000 hunters had registered to participated in the hunt of 27 individuals. The hunt was allowed to be carried out in five large areas, and all individuals were allowed to be killed within that area, with the exception of one protective area where no hunting was allowed while a specially genetically important individual is reproducing there. There was no connection between the hunt and problem animals (either wolves which have killing domestic animals or wolves with a very high inbred coefficient).
WWF-Sweden and many nature conservation organisations protested against the license hunting decision, which took place in 2010, while the hunt violates the EU Habitat directive. The conservation status for the Swedish wolf population is critically endangered according to the official Swedish Red-list.
In January 2010, the majority of the 27 wolves were killed during the first day of the hunt. The atmosphere was very stressed during the hunt because there were many hunting teams that wanted to kill a wolf before the quota was full. This meant that many hunters shot at wolves without much control. An unacceptable amount of wolves were injured before being killed, and many more wolves were shot at without being hit. More than 25% of the wolves were shot before being killed at a later stage. In total 28 wolves were shot.
One of the major reasons the hunt came about was to get acceptance by the hunters for the large carnivores in Sweden. Instead, it seems that villages in the countryside have been split into two sides – for and against wolf hunting. But the majority is for wolves. The government received lots of mail, which is critical to the hunt issued by the Swedish Government.
Text: Tom Arnbom, large carnivore expert
Wolfs in Sweden
Wolfs in Sweden: 200 in the wild (after the hunt 2010)
The Swedish wolf population is heavily inbred and thus even more vulnerable. Most of the breeding pairs are more related to each other than full siblings. The reason being that the Scandinavian wolf population was almost exterminated in the 1970s. The first breeding took place again in the early 1980s when two individuals managed to migrate from the Finnish/Russian population to the middle part of Sweden. The population slowly increased but based on only two individuals, siblings started to breed with each other. In early the 1990s a third individual arrived in Sweden and today’s population is based on these three individuals. However, in 2008 a fourth wolf came from the Finnish/Russian population that is now part of the Swedish reproduction (a fifth new wolf also did establish itself in Norway in 2008).
In Sweden hunting wolves is allowed to remove specific individuals, which repeatedly kill domestic animals (e.g. sheep or dogs). This has worked very well so far. The number of wolves in Sweden is very low (200-250 individuals) compared to many other countries with wolves in Europe considering that so few people live in Sweden as well as that large suitable habitats for wolves are available and give a very good, healthy prey supply.